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Body Fat Percentage

What does your score mean?

Compare your scores with the following table:

20-39 years 40-59 years 60-79 years
Low <21% <23% <24%
Healthy <21%-33% 23%-34% 24%-36%
Increased 33%-39% 34% – 40% 36% – 42%
High >39% >40% >42%

Table: Body fat percentage ranges (women)*

20-39 years 40-59 years 60-79 years
Low <8% <11% <13%
Healthy 8% – 20% 11% – 22% 13% – 25%
Increased 20% – 25% 22% – 28% 25% – 30%
High >25% >28% >30%

Table: Body fat percentage ranges (Men)**

What is percentage body fat?
Body fat percentage is the percentage of body fat in relation to total weight.

Body Fat – Body fat protects organs, cushions joints, controls temperature, stores vitamins and acts as an energy store for the body.

Too much body fat can lead to adverse effects in terms of health i.e. blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Body fat values outside the healthy range lead to a significantly higher risk of health problems.

Subcutaneous Fat – Body fat that lies superficial and close to the skin. Characteristics are:
• Outwardly visible
• Less metabolically active
• Less easily broken down

Visceral Fat – Body fat that lies around the central organs (the viscera). Generally, visceral fat is considered a lot more harmful to health than subcutaneous fat and has been proved to contribute to diseases such a diabetes and heart disease 2. Characteristics are:
• Not outwardly visible
• More metabolically active
• Breaks down quickly in order to be used as energy

How to reduce risk
It is not possible to specifically target an area of your body for fat reduction. Usually, the abdomen is the first place where fat loss will occur. A reduction of 5% to 10% of body weight can result in a reduction of 10% to 30% of abdominal fat. It is generally accepted that visceral fat reduces at a greater rate because it is more metabolically active and breaks down quicker than subcutaneous fat.

Here are some tips for reducing body fat and weight.

• Try and avoid snacking
Try to eat at roughly the same time each day to avoid being hungry, this will help you avoid snacking. If you snack choose a healthy option.
• Choose reduced fat versions of foods
Such as spreads, dairy and salad dressings, however still use sparingly.
• Be more active, more often
Walk or be active every day! Aim for 10,000 steps or 30-40 minutes per day.
• Portion Control
Don’t pile food on your plate unless it is vegetables.
• Think drink
Choose water or sugar free squashes, also alcohol is high in calories so control your consumption.
• Five-a-day
Eat at least five portions of fruit/vegetables per day. Fresh, frozen, or tinned.

* Gallagher et al (2000) Healthy Percentage Body Fat Ranges: an approach for developing guidelines based on body mass index. Am J Clin Nutr. 72(3), 694-701.
**. Westphal, S.A (2008) Obesity, Abdominal Obesity and Insulin Resistance. Clin Cornerstone. 9(1), 23-29.