A better way to measure body fat is a better way to measure disease risk

We all know that being overweight increases the risk for a number of chronic diseases…

From cancer and heart disease to diabetes and Alzheimer’s — the convention says your chance of ending up with any of these diseases goes up significantly if you’re carrying around too many extra pounds.

But, how do you know if you’re at a lot of risk, or just a little, if any, or if your weight is right for your height?

After all, in the last year or so, some schools of thought have begun to question how overweight you may have to be for it to adversely affect your health — or at what point you may begin heading down that road.

Well, if you’ve been for a physical lately (or work with a personal trainer at the gym) they may have talked to you about something called BMI or body mass index. It’s been the most common way to measure body fat. But, unfortunately, it has two major flaws. The BMI formula:

  • Can’t distinguish between bone mass, muscle mass and excess fat; and…
  • Doesn’t account for how gender influences your weight (even though we all know that women generally have more body fat than men)

Fortunately, there’s a new kid on the block that gives you a more accurate method to estimate your body fat and determine your level of risk…

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Your relative fat mass index

This new formula was developed by Cedars-Sinai investigators and it’s known as Relative Fat Mass index or RFM.

Not only is it far more accurate than the old BMI measurement, but it’s also a lot easier since it only uses your height and waist circumference measurements — you don’t even need a bathroom scale.

In fact, after examining more than 300 possible formulas for estimating body fat using a large database of 12,000 adults, the researchers settled on the measurement because it came within 96.2 percent accuracy of predicting obesity. (This makes it up to 14 percent more accurate than using the BMI method — a very important 14 points, I might add when you’re dealing with something that can have such far-reaching effects on your health.)

And, according to the researchers, it’s as precise as a DXA body scan (a high-tech body scan that’s widely considered to be one of the most accurate methods of measuring body tissue, bone, muscle and fat) and it doesn’t come with the hefty price tag or need a physician referral.

So, now that you know all about it, here’s how to determine your own RFM. But first, grab a measuring tape…

To measure your waist, place the tape measure right at the top of your hip bone and reach it around your body for the most reliable result and then check your height. Next, put those numbers into the relative fat mass equation below…

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Relative fat mass formula

You can see there are two formulas — one for men and one for women.

  • MEN: 64 – (20 x height/waist circumference) = RFM
  • WOMEN: 76 – (20 x height/waist circumference) = RFM

So, if you’re a woman who is 5’6” and your waist measures 33”, this is what your calculations would look like:

76 – (20 x 66/33) = 36 (Convert your height to inches and divide that number by your waist measurement in inches, multiply that number by 20, then subtract it from 76.)

What does your final number reveal?

According to the researchers, any RFM ≥33.9 for women and ≥22.8 for men is a predictor of obesity – so in the case above, if you ended up with a 36, it would be a strong indication that you need to lose weight or you’re putting yourself at risk for all of those disease associated with being overweight.

It’s your turn. Break out your measuring tape and plug your own numbers into the equation to see where you stand. If you’re above that target RFM number, the time to start making positive changes in your health and your weight is right now.

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Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

By Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst is a board-certified Doctor of Chiropractic, with more than 20 years of experience. She has dedicated herself to helping others enjoy life at every age through the use of alternative medicine and natural wellness options. Dr. Schmedthorst enjoys sharing her knowledge with the alternative healthcare community, providing solutions for men and women who are ready to take control of their health the natural way.