Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) offers insight to the body’s composition in terms of lean muscle verses fat content. Using a tiny electrical charge BIA measures the charge as it conducted through the body. Lean tissues have more water than fat does so the electricity passes through it more readily than it does through fat. BIA is considered safe because it utilizes a minute charge, and it is also reputed to be painless. Additionally bioelectrical impedance has shown promise as a means to track overall health of patients with numerous diseases such as AIDs by physicians. However it is important to note, that clinical use is conducted in absolutely consistent conditions. Although this technology has promise there are some drawbacks to its uses when assessing body composition.
For example, the technology can be very expensive. Though there are simple versions designed for home use, that may be as low as a hundred dollars, there is some evidence that they may not be that accurate especially in the hands of untrained users. For the more elaborate units often used by trainers, health care professionals and gyms, these units can cost thousands of dollars. In addition bioelectrical impedance analysis is reliant on ideal testing conditions. For example, hydration has to be optimal in order to yield accurate readings. Additionally for women, it appears that they must always be measured at the same time of their cycle in order to accurately reflect their average fat to lean ratio.
Further it is recommended that measurements be taken at exactly the same time every time, and that other factors must also be consistent. Temperature and placement of electrodes also have to be consistent for every subsequent reading. Additionally, there may be variations across populations, which are being measured. There may be differences between an individual and the individuals that are used to standardize readings.
Bioelectrical impedance analysis also has drawbacks in that food intake; caffeine and body temperature can affect the accuracy of the test. As a result people wishing to be tested using this method will need to m monitor food, beverage and even medication such as diuretics up to a week ahead of their testing. This can be problematic in a couple of ways. For instance, because of the inconvenience and restrictions, some people will choose to forgo the testing. Second any deviations from the procedure on the part of the testee means that the results may be inaccurate which nullifies the value of the test. In addition, it is suggested that bioelectrical impedance analysis may not be as accurate as some other tests even when administered correctly. For instance, hydrostatic testing, POD and DOD may all provide more reliable results.
Bioelectrical impedance analysis has some promising applications. The procedure is simple and patient’s reports indicate that it is safe and comfortable. However there is a lot of data to suggest that training to use the devices must be thorough, the device must be accurate and the conditions in which testing is done must be optimal, in order to be useful. For medical applications, Bioelectrical impedance analysis offers the really shows promise, but it is important to revisit the fact, that in a clinical setting it is possible to regulate all the variables that can interfere with accurate assessment of the data generated.
An individual interested in using bioelectrical impedance to assess their body compensation should educate him or herself about the procedure and check out the training of the administrator of the test for qualifications and training. In addition they should be thoroughly apprised of all the conditions that may affect the reliability of the test.