## Calipers and Science

Just for kicks I dug up the original Jackson/Pollock paper for skinfold measurements for determining body fat percentage. Turns out there's also a 7-point equation that also takes circumference of waist and forearm into account.

Here's a snapshot of the equations for men from the paper ("Generalized equations for predicting body density of men" by A.S. Jackson and M.L. Pollock, 1978. I couldn't find the PDF for the women paper online).

Important notes: skinfolds are in millimeters, circumferences are in meters, and log is the natural log (ln in most computer languages). I plugged my values from two weeks back into a spreadsheet and got the following results:

JP Equation | Density | %BF |
---|---|---|

Sum of seven skinfolds | ||

S, S^2, age | 1.0518 | 20.62% |

S, S^2, age,C | 1.0476 | 22.51% |

log S, age | 1.0506 | 21.15% |

log S, age, C | 1.0482 | 22.25% |

Sum of three skinfolds | ||

S, S^2, age (5) | 1.0607 | 16.69% |

S, S^2, age,C (6) | 1.0549 | 19.24% |

log S, age (7) | 1.0578 | 17.95% |

log S, age, C (8) | 1.0574 | 18.14% |

The most interesting thing here is that there's a large difference between 7 and 3 site measurements, and the 3 site range is significantly larger. Also very interesting to note is that the one-site (suprailiac) AccuMeasure chart is, for me, in line with the 7-site measurement (22.1%). Given other measurements I've taken and just general guesswork based on what I see in the mirror, I think that is a decent estimate.

It's also curious that there are two sets of equations given, one using logs and one using squares.

Moral of the story: more data is better, sometimes not-enough more data is worse than a simpler estimate, and interesting things can be learned when you go to the original source. (This is just a quick note, but the paper is very interesting and reading it will be an interesting exercise that sets proper expectations for, and understanding of, the JP7 skinfold method).