Body Adiposity Index (BAI): What Does It Mean?

March 31, 2011

body fatYou’ve likely heard of the Body Mass Index (BMI), hip to waist ratio, height to weight indexes, and other methods for calculating if one is overweight. But have you heard of Body Adiposity Index, or BAI?

BAI has been getting a lot of press lately and is being touted by some as “better than BMI.” While I believe it’s good to have another tool in the healthy weight loss arsenal, unfortunately I don’t believe this one is user-friendly enough to be of much use outside of a clinical trial setting.

In a nutshell, BAI measures how much of a person’s weight comes from fat, as compared to muscle, bone, and water. Like other forms of body composition analysis, this provides a much better picture of how healthy or unhealthy one’s body weight is – or more specifically, how healthy or unhealthy one’s body fat percentage is.

For example, people who are very athletic may look like they weigh more than they should, just based upon height and weight, because lean muscle weighs more than fat. Picture a bodybuilder, and you get the idea.

Of course, most of the time when someone is overweight, the problem is that extra weight comes from fat, not muscle. This is where weighing more than one should becomes hazardous to one’s health.

More rarely, someone could be a healthy weight according to the number on the scale, but actually have a higher percentage of body fat than he or she really should. People in this category could be lulled into a false sense of security about their health risks if they just consider how many pounds they weigh, and not where that weight comes from.

While I like that this new measure focuses on body fat versus body weight – something I have long promoted – the problem I see with the BAI is that it is prone to error in everyday use. The hip measurement needs to be taken from a very specific location that’s awkward to measure by oneself, and then that number is run through a rather complex formula to determine the result.

At The Center for Medical Weight Loss, we do a detailed body composition analysis as part of our initial consultation. The machines we use to determine body composition are highly accurate (much more so than home body composition scales), and are the same as those used by professional sports teams and others to determine one’s fitness, muscle, and body fat level. The resulting detailed four page analysis lays out exactly where one’s body weight comes from, what that means, and how it could affect one’s health.

So if you’re concerned about your weight and how it may be affecting your health, I’d highly suggest a body composition analysis by a medical professional over trying to figure out one’s BAI, what it means, and what to do about it on your own.

Dr. Michael Kaplan

Founder and Chief Medical Officer

The Center for Medical Weight Loss

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