Use of relative weight and Body Mass Index for the determination of adiposity

J Clin Epidemiol. 1991;44(6):545-50. doi: 10.1016/0895-4356(91)90218-x.


Relative weight and Body Mass Index (BMI) are commonly used as measures of body fatness in epidemiologic and clinical studies. In order to determine their accuracy, they were compared to body fat measured by underwater weighting and total body water determination in 29 males and 75 females who varied widely in body composition. Relative weights calculated from the Metropolitan Life Insurance Tables correlated so highly with BMI that these measures can be considered to be identical (R2 = 0.992 to 0.999). Linear regression analysis showed a significant correlation between BMI and percentage body fat in men (R2 = 0.68, %fat = 0.99 X BMI -1.32, p less than 0.001) and women (R2 = 0.74, %fat = 0.94 X BMI + 10.77, p less than 0.001). We conclude that relative weight and BMI are nearly identical, and that they are reasonable estimates of body fatness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Body Water
  • Body Weight*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Regression Analysis