BIA Body Fat Scales and hand grip tests

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A relative newcomer to the body fat testing scene are body fat "scales" and hand grip tests. The most popular of the scales is manufactured by Tanita. The most popular hand gripper is produced by Omron. The body fat scales and grippers work via BIA, although they are not the same thing as the standard BIA test done with the electrodes on the hand and foot.

The manufacturers quickly point to all the scientific literature on the validity of BIA testing, but there's little research proving the accuracy of the BIA scale or gripper. Most of the published research on BIA testing was performed with the conventional BIA test in a lab where you lie down and have electrodes attached to your wrist and foot. The results of these studies cannot necessarily be extended to the BIA scale or gripper because these products don't measure whole-body electrical conductivity. The scale measures only the lower body. The hand grip test measures only the upper body.

The advantage of using a BIA scale is convenience and the ability to test yourself at home - nothing beats them for convenience and ease of use. However, what you gain in convenience, you might lose in accuracy. If you decide to use the scale, keep in mind that measuring yourself at different times of the day can produce inconsistent results because your body water level fluctuates throughout the day. If you think the scale is giving you consistent and repeatable measurements, then by all means continue to use it. However, don't be surprised if you get wild fluctuations and strange readings. Until these scales are scientifically validated, consider them "experimental."

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