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Body Fat News You Can Use

March 9, 2011 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

Body fat. Can’t live with it, can’t live without it. Too much body fat is a well established risk factor for the majority of leading causes of disease, disability and mortality in the modern world. But you do need a certain amount of adipose tissue to buffer the effects of toxins, protect your internal organs from physical damage, provide a stored energy source and stay warm when the weather turns cold. The key is to maintain a reasonable percentage of body fat. A recent publication in the journal Obesity offers up a new way to estimate your body fat percentage that may be more accurate than calculating your body mass index or BMI.

The body mass index is the most basic and inexpensive method for doctors, patients and physical trainers to determine body fat. It’s been utilized with relative success for almost 200 years. However, there are some limitations to this common equation that measures fat content based on an individual’s height and weight. For instance, BMI results don’t factor in differences among the sexes, as well as variances in muscularity. That’s why some researchers are considering a new measurement technique known as the body adiposity index (BAI) which may offer a better evaluation of body fat. Here are the two respective formulas for establishing BMI and BAI:

  • Body Mass Index Formula: weight (lbs) x 703 / height (in) squared
  • Body Adiposity Index Formula: hip circumference (cm) / height (m) x square root of height – 18

The premiere way to measure body fat in a clinical setting is a diagnostic test called DXA or dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. A group of researchers from the National Institutes of Health and USC now report that using the BAI formula appears to be the next best thing. One of the co-authors of the study, Dr. Darko Stefanovski, recently offered two examples that illustrate how the results using BAI instead of BMI more closely resemble DXA readings:

  • A 5′ 9″ adult male weighing 210 lbs with a hip circumference of 44.4 ” would have a BMI of 31 and a BAI of 31.2. According to his DXA result, he’d have an actual body fat percentage of 34.3%.
  • A woman who is 5′ 4″, weighs 127 lbs and has a hip circumference of 37 ” would show a BMI of 21.7 and a BAI of 27.8. According to her DXA result, her body fat % would register at 28.4%.

In both instances, the BAI is closer to the DXA mark than the BMI. It’s important to note that these current findings are preliminary because they’re based solely on an examination of BAI vs. DXA in a group of 2,000 African-American and Mexican-American volunteers with ages ranging from 18 to 67. Additional studies testing different study populations are warranted. In addition, it seems that using the BAI in very lean individuals (<10 % body fat) provides unreliable results. So for the time being, this new test that is making the rounds in the media should be considered experimental and ought to be used in conjunction with other forms of body fat analysis whenever possible. (1,2)

Based on current and emerging figures on overweight and obesity, it’s clear that many people would benefit from losing some degree of body fat. As summer approaches and the number of advertisements for exercise equipment, gym memberships and “super fat burning” supplements increase by the day, remember that there are also some common sense ways of firming up your body. Here are five, no-nonsense techniques that are scientifically proven to promote a healthier and leaner body.

Tip #1 - You don’t necessarily need to do a specific exercise, but you do need to stay physically active. A new study appearing in the January 2011 issue of the British Medical Journal reports that a higher “daily step count” is directly associated with improved insulin sensitivity and reduced adiposity over the long term. (3)

Tip #2 - Familiarize yourself with the glycemic index and the glycemic load of foods. A recent investigation in children found that those who ate low glycemic foods that had a lesser impact on blood sugar were at a reduced risk for body fat and weight gain. Limiting fruit juice and soda, refined grains, starchy vegetables and most processed foods is a good start for at-risk adolescents and children. (4)

Tip #3 - If you want to lose body fat, you’ve got to get a good night’s sleep. Researchers from the University of Chicago, Illinois report that “sleep curtailment” can slow fat loss down by up to 55%. What’s more, inadequate sleep promotes the loss of “fat-free mass” or muscle by up to 60%. (5)

Fish Oil Supplementation May Promote a Leaner Physique

Source: Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2010, 7:31 (link)

Tip #4 - Eat protein at every meal. A recent intervention trial found that a higher protein diet helped study volunteers lose body fat even in the absence of caloric restriction or increased physical activity. In addition, the added protein contributed to an increase in lean body mass. (6)

Tip #5 - Don’t forget to eat fish regularly or supplement with fish oil. Recently, forty-four men and women were given either a placebo (safflower oil) or fish oil over a 6 week period. The amount of fish oil used per person was 4 grams/day providing 800 mg/day of DHA and 1,600 mg/day of EPA. Those receiving the fish oil supplements “significantly increased lean mass and decreased fat mass”. Also of note is that there was a significant decline in cortisol, a stress hormone that may play a role in fat accumulation. (7,8,9)

I can tell you from experience that disdain for body fat can, in fact, be unhealthy. My distant bout with the eating disorder, anorexia nervosa, is but one example of how the mind can sometimes distort the reality of what the body actually looks like. The tips I’ve offered above are not in any way intended to promote a skinny-centric society. Whether you find a plump or portly appearance attractive or not, the fact remains that excessive levels of adiposity are linked to conditions ranging from accelerated aging, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. This is not a superficial issue. However, it is one that can be dealt with in a health promoting manner that doesn’t involve money or self-esteem draining fads or gimmicks. (10,11,12,13,14)

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!

JP

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22 Comments & Updates to “Body Fat News You Can Use”

  1. Iggy Dalrymple Says:

    I’m suspicious of hip measurements in males. They say a ‘pear shape’ is healthier than an ‘apple shape’. I say a ‘pear shaped’ man has a hormone problem. A pear shaped man probably has no hair on his chest and is effeminate. Yes, a ‘pear shaped’ man may be less prone to heart disease, just like pre-menopausal women are somewhat immune to heart disease.

  2. Mark Says:

    One also needs to be cautious about the accuracy of the step on scales or hand held devices that measure body fat. Never depend on these for true numbers. Our company has an annual health fair and body fat is measured on a step on device. Last year I measured at 8.9, this year I measured at 21. The difference is last year I was asked if I was active and exercised, which I am and do. But being active and exercising can be anything from walking to full blown workouts. Take it with a grain of salt.

  3. JP Says:

    Iggy,

    Any hint of insulin resistance is important to note, IMO. Fat accumulation in the abdominal region is a primary indicator. That’s why I take special note of it. That’s not to say that hormonal issues shouldn’t also be addressed. That’s important also.

    Be well!

    JP

  4. JP Says:

    Good advice, Mark.

    Thanks and be well!

    JP

  5. dee Says:

    This is even worse than BMI. I’m a 5ft2 female with a hip circumference of 36 inches, that makes BAI around 28, but my body fat percentage has been professionally measured (by DEXA scan) as around 20%!

    How they can assume all women sharing their hip size will automatically have identical levels of fat is beyond me? Even two women of the same height may have completely different pelvic structures and fat distribution patterns.

    The least they could have done is factored weight, age, ankle/wrist size and waist cirumucference into the equation, but even then I still suspect the equations would be pretty unreliable for the most part.

  6. dee Says:

    And just to add BMI has no direct relationship to body fat percentage so why they even expected the DEXA numbers to match the BMI make no sense whatsoever.

  7. Shelby Says:

    Hey!

    So, this is a little off -topic, but in your post you mention your “distant bout with anorexia nervosa” – something that I pursued heavily for a few years, and am trying to get myself out of. The problem I’m facing is that even when people around me worry that I’m too skinny, I see a fatty in the mirror!! How do you (or did you) get past that particular trial? I eat pretty healthy, am a vegetarian (helps with the control issues) but the mirror is my biggest enemy.

  8. JP Says:

    Thank you for your input, Dee. I think you make some good points. Much appreciated.

    Be well!

    JP

  9. JP Says:

    Shelby,

    My solution may not be the most practical one. I went through AN during my adolescent years (years 13 & 14). At that time, the severity of my condition required that my parents admit me to an in-patient treatment program. There, I participated in a rather intensive, six-month program that focused primarily on group therapy and one-on-one psychotherapy. No meds.

    Be well!

    JP

  10. Michael Hines Says:

    Hi there,

    Wow! So much information on BMI and BAI. Although, I don’t believe that the BMI especially is that accurate. I have friends and clients that is definitely not overweight in any way but the BMI shows that the above the average measurements.

    I do agree with you that we need a certain amount of body fat to protect our internal organs from toxins.

    I have seen bodybuilders with 2% body fat that will wear winter clothes in summer because they feel cold.

    Thank you anyway for such a informative post. I will be back for more.

    Michael

  11. JP Says:

    Thank you, Michael.

    Be well!

    JP

  12. Nina K. Says:

    Good morning, JP :-)

    i love love love this site: http://www.scientificpsychic.com/fitness/diet.html

    and look at this, wow! respect! http://www.scientificpsychic.com/fitness/pictures.html

    Greetings :-)
    Nina K.

  13. JP Says:

    Thank you, Nina. Looks like a very useful site. Inspirational too – the pictures. :)

    Be well!

    JP

  14. Nina K. Says:

    Hi JP,

    yes the pics! ;-) they are very motivational ;-) ))

    Be well!
    Nina K.

  15. Pradip Gharpure Says:

    Very useful and interesting article. some tips like having maximum steps every day, having proteins in every meal can be easily included in our daily life. thanks for such tips and publication.

  16. JP Says:

    Updated 05/15/16:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27179166

    Arch Iran Med. 2016 May;19(5):342-347.

    Effect of Omega-3 PUFAs Supplementation with Lifestyle Modification on Anthropometric Indices and Vo2 max in Overweight Women.

    BACKGROUND: Despite the fact that the recommendations of counteracting obesity advocate for changing lifestyle and physical activity habits, the prevalence of obesity continues to rise. The aim of the study was to investigate the effect of omega-3 PUFAs supplementation with lifestyle modification on anthropometric indices and Vo2max in overweight women.

    METHODS: Fifty overweight women aged between 20 to 45 years were recruited in this interventional study. Women randomly were divided into two experimental groups (n = 25). Group 1 received omega-3 supplement, aerobic exercise program, and a healthy diet education. Group 2 was similar to group 1, except in that patients received placebo instead of omega-3 capsules. Experimental and placebo group subjects were asked to take one supplementary capsule every day, for 8 weeks. Anthropometric indices were measured in the fourth and eighth weeks of the trial. The maximum aerobic capacity (Vo2max) was determined using a gas analysis device. The level of significance for comparing the results before and after the trial was considered at P < 0.05.

    RESULTS: According to the data, body weight, body fat percentage, waist circumference, and abdominal skinfold thickness significantly reduced in the omega-3 treated group compared to the control group during 8 weeks after the initiation of the study (P < 0.05). In addition, supplementation of omega-3, significantly improved the VO2max outcome compared to that of the control group (P = 0.03).

    CONCLUSION: According to the results, it seems that omega-3 PUFAS supplementation with lifestyle modification has positive effects on anthropometric indices and Vo2max in overweight women.

    Be well!

    JP

  17. JP Says:

    Updated 06/15/16:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27298806

    J Exerc Nutrition Biochem. 2016 Mar 31;20(1):1-8.

    The combined effect of green tea and acute interval sprinting exercise on fat oxidation of trained and untrained males.

    PURPOSE: This study investigated the combined effect of green tea and acute interval sprinting exercise on fat oxidation of trained and untrained males.

    METHODS: Fourteen trained and 14 untrained males ingested one capsule containing either green tea or cellulose with breakfast, lunch, and dinner, 24 hours before two exercise sessions. A fourth capsule was consumed 90 minutes before exercise after overnight NPO (nil per os). Participants performed a 20-minute interval sprinting cycling protocol, consisting of repeated bouts of 8-seconds of sprint cycling (at 65% of maximum power output) and 12-seconds of recovery (at 25% of maximum power output), followed by 75 minutes of post-exercise recovery.

    RESULTS: Fat oxidation was significantly greater in the resting condition after green tea ingestion (p < 0.05) compared with the placebo. Fat oxidation was also significantly increased post-exercise in the green tea, compared with the placebo condition (p < 0.01). During and after exercise the plasma glycerol levels significantly increased in both groups after green tea consumption and were significantly higher in the untrained group compared with the trained group (p < 0.05). Compared with the placebo, the plasma epinephrine levels were significantly higher for both groups in the green tea condition during and after exercise, however, norepinephrine levels were only significantly greater, p < 0.05, during and after exercise in the untrained group.

    CONCLUSION: Green tea significantly increased resting and post-exercise fat oxidation and also elevated plasma glycerol and epinephrine levels during and after interval sprinting. Glycerol and norepinephrine levels during interval sprinting were significantly higher in the untrained group compared with the trained group.

    Be well!

    JP

  18. JP Says:

    Updated 11/06/16:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27810310

    EBioMedicine. 2016 Oct 26.

    Probiotic With or Without Fiber Controls Body Fat Mass, Associated With Serum Zonulin, in Overweight and Obese Adults-Randomized Controlled Trial.

    BACKGROUND: The gut microbiota is interlinked with obesity, but direct evidence of effects of its modulation on body fat mass is still scarce. We investigated the possible effects of Bifidobacterium animalisssp. lactis 420 (B420) and the dietary fiber Litesse® Ultra polydextrose (LU) on body fat mass and other obesity-related parameters.

    METHODS: 225 healthy volunteers (healthy, BMI 28-34.9) were randomized into four groups (1:1:1:1), using a computer-generated sequence, for 6months of double-blind, parallel treatment: 1) Placebo, microcrystalline cellulose, 12g/d; 2) LU, 12g/d; 3) B420, 1010CFU/d in microcrystalline cellulose, 12g/d; 4) LU+B420, 12g+1010CFU/d. Body composition was monitored with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, and the primary outcome was relative change in body fat mass, comparing treatment groups to Placebo. Other outcomes included anthropometric measurements, food intake and blood and fecal biomarkers. The study was registered in Clinicaltrials.gov (NCT01978691).

    FINDINGS: There were marked differences in the results of the Intention-To-Treat (ITT; n=209) and Per Protocol (PP; n=134) study populations. The PP analysis included only those participants who completed the intervention with >80% product compliance and no antibiotic use. In addition, three participants were excluded from DXA analyses for PP due to a long delay between the end of intervention and the last DXA measurement. There were no significant differences between groups in body fat mass in the ITT population. However, LU+B420 and B420 seemed to improve weight management in the PP population. For relative change in body fat mass, LU+B420 showed a-4.5% (-1.4kg, P=0.02, N=37) difference to the Placebo group, whereas LU (+0.3%, P=1.00, N=35) and B420 (-3.0%, P=0.28, N=24) alone had no effect (overall ANOVA P=0.095, Placebo N=35). A post-hoc factorial analysis was significant for B420 (-4.0%, P=0.002 vs. Placebo). Changes in fat mass were most pronounced in the abdominal region, and were reflected by similar changes in waist circumference. B420 and LU+B420 also significantly reduced energy intake compared to Placebo. Changes in blood zonulin levels and hsCRP were associated with corresponding changes in trunk fat mass in the LU+B420 group and in the overall population. There were no differences between groups in the incidence of adverse events.

    DISCUSSION: This clinical trial demonstrates that a probiotic product with or without dietary fiber controls body fat mass. B420 and LU+B420 also reduced waist circumference and food intake, whereas LU alone had no effect on the measured outcomes.

    Be well!

    JP

  19. JP Says:

    Updated 01/20/17:

    http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2017/01/18/ajcn.116.144394.long

    Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Jan 18.

    Higher dietary flavonoid intakes are associated with lower objectively measured body composition in women: evidence from discordant monozygotic twins.

    BACKGROUND: Although dietary flavonoid intake has been associated with less weight gain, there are limited data on its impact on fat mass, and to our knowledge, the contribution of genetic factors to this relation has not previously been assessed.

    OBJECTIVE: We examined the associations between flavonoid intakes and fat mass.

    DESIGN: In a study of 2734 healthy, female twins aged 18-83 y from the TwinsUK registry, intakes of total flavonoids and 7 subclasses (flavanones, anthocyanins, flavan-3-ols, flavonols, flavones, polymers, and proanthocyanidins) were calculated with the use of food-frequency questionnaires. Measures of dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry-derived fat mass included the limb-to-trunk fat mass ratio (FMR), fat mass index, and central fat mass index.

    RESULTS: In cross-sectional multivariable analyses, higher intake of anthocyanins, flavonols, and proanthocyanidins were associated with a lower FMR with mean ± SE differences between extreme quintiles of -0.03 ± 0.02 (P-trend = 0.02), -0.03 ± 0.02 (P-trend = 0.03), and -0.05 ± 0.02 (P-trend < 0.01), respectively. These associations were not markedly changed after further adjustment for fiber and total fruit and vegetable intakes. In monozygotic, intake-discordant twin pairs, twins with higher intakes of flavan-3-ols (n = 154, P = 0.03), flavonols (n = 173, P = 0.03), and proanthocyanidins (n = 172, P < 0.01) had a significantly lower FMR than that of their co-twins with within-pair differences of 3-4%. Furthermore, in confirmatory food-based analyses, twins with higher intakes of flavonol-rich foods (onions, tea, and pears; P = 0.01) and proanthocyanidin-rich foods (apples and cocoa drinks; P = 0.04) and, in younger participants (aged <50 y) only, of anthocyanin-rich foods (berries, pears, grapes, and wine; P = 0.01) had a 3-9% lower FMR than that of their co-twins.

    CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest that higher habitual intake of a number of flavonoids, including anthocyanins, flavan-3-ols, flavonols, and proanthocyanidins, are associated with lower fat mass independent of shared genetic and common environmental factors. Intervention trials are needed to further examine the effect of flavonoid-rich foods on body composition.

    Be well!

    JP

  20. JP Says:

    Updated 03/11/17:

    http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2017/03/08/ajcn.116.144972.abstract

    Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Mar 8.

    Tea catechin and caffeine activate brown adipose tissue and increase cold-induced thermogenic capacity in humans.

    Background: The thermogenic effects of green tea catechin have been repeatedly reported, but their mechanisms are poorly understood.Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate the acute and chronic effects of catechin on brown adipose tissue (BAT), a site specialized for nonshivering thermogenesis, in humans.Design: Fifteen healthy male volunteers underwent fluorodeoxyglucose-positron emission tomography to assess BAT activity. To examine the acute catechin effect, whole-body energy expenditure (EE) after a single oral ingestion of a beverage containing 615 mg catechin and 77 mg caffeine (catechin beverage) was measured. Next, to investigate the chronic catechin effects, 10 men with low BAT activity were enrolled. Before and after ingestion of the catechin beverage 2 times/d for 5 wk, cold-induced thermogenesis (CIT) after 2 h of cold exposure at 19°C, which is proportional to BAT activity, was examined. Both the acute and chronic trials were single-blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled, season-matched crossover studies.Results: A single ingestion of the catechin beverage increased EE in 9 subjects who had metabolically active BAT (mean ± SEM: +15.24 ± 1.48 kcal, P < 0.01) but not in 6 subjects who had negligible activities (mean ± SEM: +3.42 ± 2.68 kcal). The ingestion of a placebo beverage containing 82 mg caffeine produced a smaller and comparative EE response in the 2 subject groups. Multivariate regression analysis revealed a significant interaction between BAT and catechin on EE (β = 0.496, P = 0.003). Daily ingestion of the catechin beverage elevated mean ± SEM CIT (from 92.0 ± 26.5 to 197.9 ± 27.7 kcal/d; P = 0.009), whereas the placebo beverage did not change it.Conclusion: Orally ingested tea catechin with caffeine acutely increases EE associated with increased BAT activity and chronically elevates nonshivering CIT, probably because of the recruitment of BAT, in humans.

    Be well!

    JP

  21. JP Says:

    Updated 06/21/17:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28631582

    Br J Nutr. 2017 Jun 20:1-8.

    Effect of green tea extract supplementation on glycogen replenishment in exercised human skeletal muscle.

    The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of 8-week green tea extract (GTE) supplementation on promoting postexercise muscle glycogen resynthesis and systemic energy substrate utilisation in young college students. A total of eight healthy male participants (age: 22·0 (se 1·0) years, BMI: 24·2 (se 0·7) kg/m2, VO2max: 43·2 (se 2·4) ml/kg per min) participated in this study. GTE (500 mg/d for 8 weeks) was compared with placebo in participants in a double-blind/placebo-controlled and crossover study design with an 8-week washout period. Thereafter, all participants performed a 60-min cycling exercise (75 % VO2max) and consumed a carbohydrate-enriched meal immediately after exercise. Vastus lateralis muscle samples were collected immediately (0 h) and 3 h after exercise, and blood and gaseous samples were collected during the 3-h postexercise recovery period. An 8-week oral GTE supplementation had no effects on further promoting muscle glycogen resynthesis in exercised human skeletal muscle, but the exercise-induced muscle GLUT type 4 (GLUT4) protein content was greater in the GTE supplementation trial (P<0·05). We observed that, during the postexercise recovery period, GTE supplementation elicited an increase in energy reliance on fat oxidation compared with the placebo trial (P<0·05), although there were no differences in blood glucose and insulin responses between the two trials. In summary, 8-week oral GTE supplementation increases postexercise systemic fat oxidation and exercise-induced muscle GLUT4 protein content in response to an acute bout of endurance exercise. However, GTE supplementation has no further benefit on promoting muscle glycogen resynthesis during the postexercise period.

    Be well!

    JP

  22. JP Says:

    Updated 10/14/17:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29022978

    Food Funct. 2017 Oct 12.

    Freeze-dried strawberry and blueberry attenuates diet-induced obesity and insulin resistance in rats by inhibiting adipogenesis and lipogenesis.

    Obesity and type 2-diabetes are becoming a worldwide health problem, reiterating the importance of alternative therapies to tackle their progression. Here, we hypothesized that supplementation of diet with 6% w/w of a freeze-dried strawberry-blueberry (5 : 1) powder (FDSB) could exert beneficial metabolic effects on Wistar rats. FDSB-supplemented animals experienced significantly reduced body weight gain, food efficiency and visceral adiposity accumulation in two independent experiments. FDSB supplementation also contributed to lower area under the curve after an intraperitoneal GTT and reduced serum insulin levels and an insulin resistance index (IR-HOMA) in HFS diet-fed animals, together with reduced plasma MCP-1 inflammation marker concentrations. Gene expression analysis in retroperitoneal adipocytes from experiment 1 and 3T3-L1 cells showed that FDSB inhibited adipogenesis and lipogenesis through down-regulation of Pparg, Cebpa, Lep, Fasn, Scd-1 and Lpl gene expression. Untargeted metabolomics identified the cis isomer of resveratrol-3-glucoside-sulphate as a metabolite differentially increased in FDSB-treated serum samples, which corresponds to a strawberry metabolite that could be considered a serum biomarker of FDSB-intake. Our results suggest that FDSB powder might be useful for treatment/prevention of obesity-related diseases.

    Be well!

    JP

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