Body-fat percentage, even more than weight, is an important indicator of overall health and fitness. There are several ways to measure body fat, including caliper measurements and hydrostatic testing (considered the gold standard). Over the past decade, numerous products have been introduced to measure body fat at home, most utilizing a technology called bioelectrical impedance. These devices calculate body fat by a formula that takes into account age, gender, body weight and the amount of electric resistance encountered between the electrodes, which are usually pressed against the feet or hands. While most manufacturers claim their products are highly accurate, there is generally a 2 to 4 percent margin of error.
The Omron HBF-306C is a hand-held device that features electrodes on two handgrips and a screen to display body fat and BMI readings. Setting up the device is simply and it takes just a minute to input the relevant data: height, weight, age, sex and fitness level (athlete or normal). The enclosed instruction manual offers guidelines for determining fitness level based on the time and intensity of weekly workouts. The device includes memory settings for up to nine users. Once the information has been inputted, the user presses the start button and grips the handles of the device with each hand. An undetectable current passes from one hand, through the arms and torso to the other side and the amount of resistance is recorded and used to calculate body fat. Within 7 seconds, body fat and BMI are displayed.
In our comparisons to measurements taken with calipers, the Omron Fat Loss Monitor underestimated body fat by as much as 4 to 5 percent. For other users, it appeared to overestimate body-fat percentage.
As with any bioelectrical impedance device, it is important to be adequately (but not overly) hydrated and to measure body fat at the same time and under the same conditions every day. When used on a consistent basis, the Omron Fat Loss Monitor can provide users with a general idea of body-fat percentage. However, it is important to note that body fat changes occur very slowly and, unlike weight changes, may not show up for some time.
What we liked:
- Easy-to-use device for measuring body fat percentage and BMI
- Small, hand-held convenience
What we didn’t like:
- Accuracy varied widely, both overestimating and underestimating body fat when compared to caliper measurements
January 11, 2010