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Assessing Fat Mass with Skinfold Measurements: A Comprehensive Guide


Fat Mass with Skinfold Measurements

Skinfold measurements offer insights into body fat percentage and distribution, aiding in assessing overall health. Here's what you need to know about utilizing this method effectively in your practice.


What are Skinfold Measurements?

Skinfold assessments gauge subcutaneous fat distribution and total body fat percentage. By using skinfold calipers, dietitians can pinpoint central fat mass distribution and subcutaneous abdominal fat, informing tailored diet and exercise recommendations.


Why Use Skinfold Assessments?

Skinfold thickness serves as a reliable predictor of body fat percentage, surpassing BMI in accuracy. Additionally, these assessments aid in identifying potential health issues and tracking the impact of nutritional interventions and physical activity.


Basic Principles for Accurate Measurements:

  • The subject should stand relaxed with arms at the sides.

  • Measurements should be taken on the right side of the body.

  • Skinfold sites are located using the non-dominant hand.

  • Calipers are positioned perpendicular to the skinfold site.

  • Minimal tissue is picked up to avoid muscle incorporation.

  • Calipers are held at a 90-degree angle to the skinfold.

  • Measurements registered after 2 seconds of caliper pressure.

  • Each location was measured thrice, with the average considered.

By adhering to these principles, dietitians can effectively utilize skinfold measurements to assess body composition and guide clients toward improved health and wellness.


Basic principles for a correct skinfold measurement

Before incorporating skinfold measurements into your appointments, it's crucial to adhere to these fundamental principles:

  1. Ensure the subject is standing in a relaxed position with their upper limbs completely relaxed along the torso unless otherwise specified.

  2. Measure on the right side of the body.

  3. Locate the sites using the tester's left hand's thumb and index finger (or non-dominant hand).

  4. Lift the skinfold 2cm above the measurement site and position the caliper perpendicular to the orientation.

  5. Pick up the minimum amount of tissue, ensuring only skin and subcutaneous tissue are included, without incorporating underlying muscle tissue.

  6. Ensure both sides of the skin surfaces are roughly parallel, and hold the caliper at a 90-degree angle to the marked site of the skinfold.

  7. Register the skinfold measurement 2 seconds after applying the full pressure of the caliper.

  8. Repeat the measurements three times at each location, and consider the average of these measurements.

Additionally, to provide optimal nutrition service alongside accurate skinfold measurements, refer to relevant resources for guidance.


Determining body mass using skinfold measurements can be achieved through various predictive formulas:

  1. Evans Formula (2005): Suitable for estimating body fat percentage in athletes, considering gender, origin, and specific skinfold measurements.

  2. Slaughter Formula (1988): Directly determines body fat percentage in children and teenagers (7-18 years old), considering maturity level, origin, and specific skinfold measurements.

  3. Peterson Formula (2003): Determines body fat percentage in adults (18-55 years old), considering current weight, age, height, and specific skinfold measurements.

Would you like to have these recommendations handy during your appointments?

Primary Skinfolds

Below is practical guidance for measuring key skinfold sites, essential for employing absolute predictive equations outlined further below.

Triceps Skinfold

  • Mark the triceps skinfold site on the posterior surface of the arm, along the triceps muscle midline, halfway between the acromion and radius.

  • Lift the skinfold parallel to the arm's long axis, with the subject standing and arms relaxed along the torso. The tester stands behind the subject, on their right side.

Subscapular Skinfold

  • Mark the subscapular skinfold site just below the inferior angle of the scapula.

  • Mark the location 2cm below the subscapular site, laterally and obliquely, forming a line about 45 degrees towards the right elbow.

Biceps Skinfold

  • Mark the biceps skinfold on the anterior surface of the arm, over the biceps, midway between the acromion and radius.

  • With the patient standing and arms relaxed along the torso, lift the skinfold vertically.

Supraspinal Skinfold

  • Locate the supraspinal skinfold at the intersection of a line from the anterior superior iliac spine to the axillary's anterior margin and a horizontal line at the iliac crest's upper margin.

  • With the subject standing, arms relaxed along the torso or crossed over, lift the skinfold obliquely (about 45 degrees downward and inward).

Abdominal Skinfold

  • Position the abdominal skinfold 5cm to the right of the umbilical scar, adjusting for height using the formula: Distance = 5 x (Height / 170cm).

  • With the patient standing and arms relaxed, measure vertically at the umbilical point.

Front Thigh Skinfold

  • Mark the point midway between the inguinal fold and the upper patella point on the leg's anterior midline.

  • With the subject seated, right leg extended, left leg flexed at 90 degrees, measured parallel to the thigh's long axis.

Medial Calf Skinfold

  • Mark the medial calf point at the leg's internal surface, at maximum calf circumference level.

  • With the subject standing, feet apart, distribute body weight equally and measure vertically at the marked site.

Iliac Crest/Suprailiac Skinfold

  • Raise the iliac crest skinfold above the iliocristale, at the midpoint between the armpit and ilium.

  • Measure horizontally just above the iliac crest, following natural skin fold lines.

 

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