What are anthropometric measurements? What other indicators are there?

August 22, 2020 by No Comments

Anthropometry is a parameter used to measure important aspects of body composition, specifically the size and proportion of the body of the individual to whom it is performed.

The compartments that are mainly measured are those that present greater variability in the muscle-fat content.

Muscle mass and fat mass constitute tissues whose composition varies widely depending on the intake of proteins and fats that are make it through diet. When these parameters are used, what is sought is a somatic type assessment, that is, to know through the measurements of different cell compartments if there is any type of change in the nutritional status, which is assessed from a series of parameters that are compared with previously established reference data.

Measurements are easy to perform, are done in a short time, are low cost and are non-invasive. In addition, they measure the fat and protein reserves of the individual.

There are various methods with which to measure body compartments, such as body weight, weight indexes, skin folds, body circumferences and indexes and sagittal diameter.

Limitations of the data

They are measurements that do not allow to know the bone mineral density, that is, to know the concentration of minerals (generally calcium and phosphorus) that has a certain volume of bone. Therefore, certain diseases that can derive from the deficiency of certain minerals in bone such as osteoporosis could not be known.

Difficulty in knowing the amount of adipose tissue that surrounds the internal organs (or visceral adipose tissue) , which is essential, since this localized fat acts as a cardiometabolic and atherothrombotic risk factor.


Body weight

It is the simplest and most common way of measuring the nutritional status of an individual. It must be done under specific conditions for the measurement obtained to be reliable.


It is important to know the size of an individual, that is, the height it presents (growth of bone tissue). Thus, to be able to measure the individual, they must be standing, barefoot and with their back in contact with a stadiometer (apparatus used to measure the height of an individual). It is a platform on which the individual climbs, which has a fixed measuring tape that runs vertically along the wall and with a marker that indicates the individual’s height. The head must be straight, the feet parallel with the ankles and together.

Cutaneous folds.

Anthropometric method used to know, through skin folds, the subcutaneous fat that an individual presents. Once the subcutaneous fat is known, the fat mass can be estimated. It is a widely used method in epidemiology, because it is not invasive, it is quick and easy to perform. It is also a parameter widely used clinically by health professionals to assess the nutritional status of individuals in pathological situations. For the measurement of the folds an instrument called lipocaliber or lipocaliper is used. The lipocalibre is a kind of clamp that, depending on the fold on which it is placed, applies a constant pressure. The measurement is indicated on a scale that the device itself has and is expressed in millimeters. Each time a fold is measured, it must be done three times in the same place and from there obtain the weighted average to obtain the final value.

Among the most used folds, the following stand out:

  • Tricipital (PT): it is the most used. The measurement is made with the individual in a supine position and holding the non-dominant arm extended. The lipocaliber is placed at the midpoint between the elbow (olecranon) and the shoulder (acromion), grasping the skin that covers the triceps (without touching the muscle).
  • Bicipital (PB): the measurement is taken carried out in the same way as for the triceps crease, but on the anterior aspect of the arm.
  • Subscapular (PS): measure one centimeter below the scapular angle following the natural line of the body. The individual should be with relaxed shoulders.
  • Suprailiac (PA): measurement takes place just above the iliac crest along the mid-axillary line.

Sagittal diameter

It is a parameter created to measure subcutaneous fat in the abdominal area, that is, perivisceral fat, since the waist- hip did not provide information on the fat in this area. The measurement is made in centimeters from the umbilical area to the lumbar area with a tape measure, with the patient placed face up (supine). Values ‚Äč‚Äčabove 25 cm increase the risk of disease in people with obesity.

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