21. October 2021

No help but big potential harm from wearable body fat tests



There are so many units accessible now, ready to trace completely different vitals and statistics about your body. Some of those options are helpful, like heart rate, ECG, and fall detection. Some are much less helpful if not mixed with actionable data, resembling sleep monitoring and inaccurate blood oxygen tests. But what’s regarding now’s the rise of transportable body composition testing, which has the potential to do nice harm with none apparent advantages.

Bioimpedance evaluation, extra generally generally known as body composition tests, first made their means into individuals’s houses on good body scales from firms like Withings and Fitbit. They’ve now made the soar to wearables, most notably on the brand new Samsung Galaxy Watch4. These tests say what proportion of your body is fat, muscle and bone.

Samsung’s Galaxy Watch4 can perform a body composition test on demand.

Samsung’s Galaxy Watch4 can carry out a body composition check on demand.

This rise in recognition and portability has Danni Rowlands, National Manager of Prevention Services at The Butterfly Foundation, involved.

“People who have personality traits that are competitive, perfectionist, high achieving, overly preoccupied or obsessive are likely to experience potential harm from these devices. They are especially concerning for those who are susceptible to or experiencing an eating disorder or disordered eating,” she stated.

“The more fixated a person becomes with their weight, shape, body fat or size, the higher their risk of engaging in restrictive or extreme behaviours with their eating and exercise. When it comes to health, being obsessed or overly preoccupied with metrics can in fact be incredibly unhealthy.”

Danni Rowlands, manager of prevention services at the Butterfly Foundation.

Danni Rowlands, supervisor of prevention companies on the Butterfly Foundation.

Lots of these body composition tests show the fat proportion with a smiley or frowny face, or within the case of the Galaxy Watch4 a colored line, which reveals gentle inexperienced for under-weight, inexperienced for best, and pink if you’re “overweight”. The incontrovertible fact that it reveals being under-weight with a constructive color and “overweight” with adverse says so much in regards to the tradition this device is made for.

Those traces don’t take particular person circumstances into consideration, but they positive could make an individual really feel dangerous and provides them a need to make that fat proportion quantity as small as potential. What makes that further dangerous is that body composition tests are sometimes wildly inaccurate. Research and tests from 2016 discovered outcomes had been typically off by as much as 21 per cent.

These units glorify and worth fat loss with out educating on how having some fat is required to be wholesome, how completely different body varieties and sizes are composed otherwise, and so they don’t point out how most of those “healthy” BMI and fat metrics are primarily based solely round Anglo Saxon our bodies.

According to Rowland, specializing in fat loss isn’t even useful for turning into wholesome.


“What is understood is that the attitudes and behaviours required to drive a reduction in body fat can have an adverse effect on training, performance and mental health, and can increase a person’s risk of experiencing serious body image disorders, disordered eating or an eating disorder,” she stated.

So what’s the profit of those tests? There actually isn’t one. They’re inaccurate, a bit racist, and have enormous potential for harm. They don’t belong in mass marketed units.

If you’ve been counting on body composition tests, or have been contemplating utilizing the function as a part of a weight reduction plan, Rowlands stated there are higher methods.

“Your health is determined by so much more than just your body fat percentage, and metrics around weight, shape and size can be all-consuming so it can trigger other unhelpful behaviours around eating and exercise also,” she stated.

“If you are concerned about your health, please seek professional advice from a non-diet health professional; a health professional that will work with you to support achieving health gains, rather than just focus on your weight or size.”

If you or somebody you understand is turning into overly preoccupied with these sorts of metrics, contact the Butterfly National Helpline on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673), through webchat or e mail assist@butterfly.org.au

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