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Do BMI Scales Work?

Weighing in: the accuracy of body fat scales

adult stepping on a BMI scale

When it comes to managing your weight at home, options for digital scales are seemingly endless. But can scales that reportedly measure things like body mass index and body fat percentage be helpful?


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Several studies have looked at different digital body fat scales and how they stack up compared to the types of devices that are used in clinical research.

Leslie Heinberg, PhD, Director of Enterprise Weight Management at Cleveland Clinic, says research has found that most of these scales are fairly inaccurate and tend to overestimate body fat percent. Plus the extra bells and whistles on these products can produce distressing results.

“One of the biggest concerns in using these scales is getting the wrong information and it causing unnecessary stress,” says Dr. Heinberg.

The readings might be so discouraging, that they could cause a person to give up or engage in extreme or unhealthy diets.

Data can still be helpful

Getting feedback on weight and body fat percentage can be helpful, however, numbers aren’t always the best measure of healthy behavior.

“Body fat percentage data can be helpful at the beginning of a weight loss journey,” says Dr. Heinberg “But it’s best not to get caught up in trying to measure every day fluctuations.”

Percent body fat is a great thing to keep track of before you initiate a diet or exercise program and checking on it from time to time can be beneficial. But checking it every day or every few days is not going to help your mental health.

If you really want an accurate assessment then make an appointment with your doctor. There are clinical ways that can measure more accurately than what you can do at home.


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