Take care when measuring body fat, says Trading Standards

Published Wednesday, 21st March 2018

TRADING Standards officers in Hartlepool have discovered machines claiming to measure body fat could offer extremely varied results.

The machines, often called ‘Body Composition Analysers’, calculate a number of health-related factors including the amount of body fat a person has, often charging extra for this information.

Their investigation found that after two officers had used 11 different machines on the same morning to measure their body fat percentages, the analysers produced significantly different results.

One officer’s results ranged from 18.9% to 30.5%, whilst for the other results ranged from 11.6% to 25.9%.

Ian Harrison, Trading and Licensing Manager at Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “A simple set of scales can tell if two people weigh the same, but this wouldn’t distinguish between muscle and fat. A body analyser goes beyond this to tell an individual exactly how much fat they have in their body.

“These machines could be used by individuals to make important decisions about their health, and so it is important residents are aware that readings can vary considerably between one machine and another.

“Our advice if someone does want to use this type of equipment would be to stick to the same machine every time, using it only as an indicator of increases or decreases in body fat percentage.

“We will be speaking to the manufacturers of these machines to establish why the results are so varied.”

Gemma Ptak, Hartlepool Borough Council’s Assistant Director for Preventative and Community Based Services, said: “Body Composition Analysers can often give individuals the motivation needed to help them take their first steps towards positive long-term lifestyle changes.

“However, there are many variables that can have an impact on the results. To use the machines as an effective monitoring tool, we would encourage people to remain open-minded about the results given, and to try and ensure they use the same machine at the same time of day and under similar circumstances.”

Hartlepool Borough Council’s Trading Standards team can be contacted on (01429) 523362 or trading.standards@hartlepool.gov.uk.