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Validity of BMI-Based Body Fat Equations in Men and Women

A 4-Compartment Model Comparison

Nickerson, Brett S.1,2; Esco, Michael R.2; Bishop, Phillip A.3; Fedewa, Michael V.2; Snarr, Ronald L.2; Kliszczewicz, Brian M.4; Park, Kyung-Shin1

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: January 2018 - Volume 32 - Issue 1 - p 121–129
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001774
Original Research

Nickerson, BS, Esco, MR, Bishop, PA, Fedewa, MV, Snarr, RL, Kliszczewicz, BM, and Park, K-S. Validity of BMI-based body fat equations in men and women: a 4-compartment model comparison. J Strength Cond Res 32(1): 121–129, 2018—The purpose of this study was to compare body mass index (BMI)–based body fat percentage (BF%) equations and skinfolds with a 4-compartment (4C) model in men and women. One hundred thirty adults (63 women and 67 men) volunteered to participate (age = 23 ± 5 years). BMI was calculated as weight (kg) divided by height squared (m2). BF% was predicted with the BMI-based equations of Jackson et al. (BMIJA), Deurenberg et al. (BMIDE), Gallagher et al. (BMIGA), Zanovec et al. (BMIZA), Womersley and Durnin (BMIWO), and from 7-site skinfolds using the generalized skinfold equation of Jackson et al. (SF7JP). The 4C model BF% was the criterion and derived from underwater weighing for body volume, dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry for bone mineral content, and bioimpedance spectroscopy for total body water. The constant error (CE) was not significantly different for BMIZA compared with the 4C model (p = 0.74, CE = −0.2%). However, BMIJA, BMIDE, BMIGA, and BMIWO produced significantly higher mean values than the 4C model (all p < 0.001, CEs = 1.8–3.2%), whereas SF7JP was significantly lower (p < 0.001, CE = −4.8%). The standard error of estimate ranged from 3.4 (SF7JP) to 6.4% (BMIJA) while the total error varied from 6.0 (SF7JP) to 7.3% (BMIJA). The 95% limits of agreement were the smallest for SF7JP (±7.2%) and widest for BMIJA (±13.5%). Although the BMI-based equations produced similar group mean values as the 4C model, SF7JP produced the smallest individual errors. Therefore, SF7JP is recommended over the BMI-based equations, but practitioners should consider the associated CE.

1Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy, Texas A&M International University, Laredo, Texas;

2Department of Kinesiology, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama;

3Department of Health Professions, Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia; and

4Department of Exercise Science and Sport Management, Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Georgia

Address correspondence to Dr. Brett S. Nickerson,

Copyright © 2018 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.