September 22, 2014

Great Gadgets for Holiday Giving?

Today’s Los Angeles Times reviewed some interesting devices for the health conscious. Here’s one of their reviews for the Tanita Ironman Body Composition Monitor

If you’re planning to give someone a scale for the holidays, you’ve already shown a willingness to take risks. (Certain people would see a gift-wrapped scale as an invitation for violence.) But some gambles are doomed from the start.

Consider the Tanita Ironman Body Composition Monitor, sold for about $130. One of the scale’s main selling points is that it purportedly measures levels of visceral fat, the kind that builds up around the intestines and other organs. Experts believe that visceral fat can throw off a person’s metabolism, greatly increasing the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Unfortunately, no bathroom scale can accurately measure visceral fat, says Kenneth Ellis, principal investigator of the Body Composition Laboratory at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “It really surprises me that they are claiming to do it,” he says. Instead, scales such as the Ironman can make only a rough estimate based on a person’s weight and the ease with which a small jolt of electricity runs through the body. (Electricity moves easily through lean tissue, but lots of fat will make for a sluggish signal.)

Two recent studies from Japan have found that electricity-based estimates of visceral fat can be off by as much as 50%. Estimates of total body fat would be somewhat more reliable, Ellis says, but they’re still limited by the fact that they can measure only the electricity that flows up one leg and down the other. Anything you’re carrying above the waist would be essentially invisible to the machine.

The only way to accurately measure visceral fat is to have a CT scan or similar high-tech test. But, in most cases, Ellis says, your body mass index — a calculation based on your height and weight — will tell you all you need know. Unless you’re muscle-bound, a BMI of 30 strongly suggests that you have too much fat — visceral and otherwise — for your own good.

If you’d like to be not only a health conscious, but well informed consumer, you can read about the StressEraser and the Sleeptracker here for more information about these health related appliances.

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