8 May
2009

The value of skinfold measurements. Skinfolds represent a relatively simple method of measuring general fatness and fat distribution. The validity of skinfold measures in the hands of an experienced measurer in people who are not excessively obese can be quite high, however reliability is quite variable, depending on the measurer, and sensitivity quite low. Skinfold measures may be useful for elite athletes, or for testing small amounts of fat losses after a significant amount of fat has been lost. They have little value, though, for the very overfat or obese mainly because:

• It is difficult to get accurate measures on extremely large folds of fat

• Extrapolation of skinfold to body fat percentage have little meaning at the higher levels of measurement.

• The measurement of skinfolds is relatively invasive and can be potentially embarrassing for a very fat person.

The value of skinfolds as a measure of body fat in those who have a high level of fat, therefore, is highly questionable, both practically and theoretically. However, they do have some value with the moderately overweight and with athletes (at least where sums of skinfold only are used), they are not recommended in dealing with overfat or obese subjects.

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