Body Fat Percentage

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A high whole-body fat percentage is associated with increased mortality (Padwal et al., 2016).

Body Mass Index (BMI) commonly used to estimate the whole-body fat percentage. A BMI ≥30 is currently used to define obesity. A recent study proposed an alternative anthropometric linear equation, which is more accurate than BMI on identifying individuals with obesity - confidence intervals: 95% for women and 96.2% for men  (Woolcott & Bergman, 2018). The study evaluated the performance of fat mass estimation among Mexican-Americans, European Americans and African-Americans.

The relative fat mass (RFM) calculation uses waist circumference, height and sex; the sex value is 0 for men and 1 for women. It is suitable for adults 20 years of age and older.

RFM Formula:  64 - (20 * height / waist circumference) + (12 * sex)

Length unit: metre.

Please note that DXA cut-points for obesity diagnosis used in the table. To date, there is no consensus for the definition of obesity based on body fat percentage (Ho-Pham & Oreopoulos, 2011).

Risk Female Male
Obese equal or above 33.9% equal or above 22.8%

Although validated on a database of over 12K adults, RFM is limited the population studied.

See also:  Measuring your waist


2016, Padwal, R., Leslie, W. D., Lix, L. M. & Majumdar, S. R. Relationship Among Body Fat Percentage, Body Mass Index, and All-Cause Mortality: A Cohort Study. Ann Intern Med 164, 532–541,

20 July 2018, Woolcott O. & Bergman R., Relative fat mass (RFM) as a new estimator of whole-body fat percentage ─ A cross-sectional study in American adult individuals, retrieved from

2011, Ho-Pham, L. T., Campbell, L. V. & Nguyen, T. V. More on body fat cutoff points. Mayo Clin Proc 86, 584,

2011, Oreopoulos, A., Lavie, C. J., Snitker, S. & Romero-Corral, A. More on body fat cutoff points–Reply–I. Mayo Clin Proc 86, 584–585,


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Special thanks to G. Salcı and Y. Herrera for the translations into Turkish and Spanish respectively, and U. Waywell for editing texts in English.

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