Over 40% of the adults in the United States and nearly 13% of the global population are obese. Obesity is an abnormal or excessive accumulation of body fat that can deter normal functions of the body, and even pose serious hazards to it. This insidious condition has a major impact on the physical, mental, and social health of individuals. However, the diagnosis of obesity is not quite straightforward and can involve several factors apart from the individual’s body weight alone.
In case you’re trying to lose weight and are looking at weight loss tests, these tests involve a slew of physical examinations and also blood tests for weight loss, so your healthcare provider can take a closer look at what’s going on in your body.
While measurement indices such as the body mass index, skinfold measurements, and waist circumference analysis primarily comprise the physical part of weight loss tests, laboratory examinations like cholesterol & metabolic panels are included in blood tests for weight loss. Read on as we discuss the various procedures involved in detecting obesity to enable patients to achieve their weight loss goals.
Physical Examinations & Mass Indices
- Physical examinations in weight loss tests involve measurements of weight, height, waist circumference, and skinfolds.
- While the body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference can be measured by the individuals themselves, body fat percentage calculation using skinfold measurements is performed by trained medical professionals.
- Here’s what these weight loss tests and examinations entail:
- Body Mass Index
- The BMI is one of the most common and widely used indices to determine obesity.
- The index attempts to express overall fat content in a body by dividing the weight of an individual in kilograms by the square of their height in centimeters.
- There exist many online BMI calculators that allow people to calculate their body mass index.
- While a BMI of less than 18.5 is considered underweight, the optimal BMI tends to be between 18.5 and 24.9. On the other hand, a BMI between 25 and 29 would make you overweight, and a value above 30 is considered a sign of obesity.
- Though not a highly specific test, the BMI allows individuals to keep a check on their weight loss progress over time.
- The BMI is not a very accurate measure because it considers only overall weight over height, and does not take into account important factors affecting obesity such as visceral fat deposits.
- The BMI is also thrown off by athletes and muscular individuals that have high muscle masses and low-fat reserves. They might fall under the obese category according to the BMI reference charts.
- Conversely, individuals that might come under the normal bracket of the BMI chart, may also have excessive visceral fat deposits - which makes them susceptible to a greater risk of heart disease.
- Supplementing the BMI with other obesity screening tests and blood tests for weight loss might turn up more specific results.
- Waist Circumference Measurements
- Waist circumference plays an important role in the diagnosis of obesity, and hence in aiding weight loss.
- Visceral fat stored around the abdominal and hip regions can raise the risk of heart disease, stroke, hypertension, and heart attacks.
- Individuals with large waist circumferences are also believed to be at a higher risk of developing diabetes.
- Women with waist circumferences over 35 inches and men with a circumference over 40 inches are said to fall under the high-risk category.
- Waist circumference is another important screening weight loss test that can be carried out based on the individual’s convenience, however, it must be performed at least once every year.
- Like the BMI, waist circumference too has its limitations, and does not apply to people that have a BMI of 35 and above. The test must be taken along with the rest of the examinations and weight loss tests to ascertain obesity.
- Skinfold Measurements
- Skinfold measurements allow medical professionals to closely estimate the amount of body fat.
- The skin, along with the underlying fat is pulled away from the muscles beneath by pinching the area and pulling it away from the inner muscles.
- Skinfolds are then measured using a method called bioelectrical impedance analysis.
- Specific skinfolds across the body are measured, which include regions like the abdomen, the mid-chest, the side of the torso, above the hip bone, on the thigh, on the forearm (including the bicep and tricep regions), and above the shoulder blade.
- The analysis involves passing a weak electric current through the body and the voltage is measured. Resistance to the current offered by muscle and fat tissues tends to be different, and this principle is applied in quantifying body fat percentage - an important marker for weight loss tests.
- Ultrasound Examinations
- To get an even closer and specific look at the body composition, doctors might advise an ultrasound to know exactly how thick the layer of adipose (fat) tissue is. This can help doctors accurately estimate body fat percentage.
- Ultrasound exams involve the use of high-frequency sound waves to visualize internal structures and tissues in the human body.
- The ultrasound, along with skinfold tests, can improve the accuracy and specificity of basic screening weight loss tests like the BMI and waist circumference measurements.
- In addition to these tests, your doctor will also conduct a complete physical examination of your body to detect any abnormalities.
- A detailed family and medical history will also be taken to assess the risk of obesity.
- Your doctor might also ask you about your history with exercise, previous weight readings, lifestyle, and dietary habits.
Laboratory & Blood Tests for Weight Loss
- In addition to the physical examinations, there exist several laboratory and blood tests for weight loss that can help determine the risks associated with obesity, and in diagnosing the complications resulting from it.
- The blood tests for weight loss include:
- Lipid panel: A lipid panel measures the amount of good & bad cholesterols, freely floating fat droplets or triglycerides, and the total amount of cholesterol in the blood. High levels of bad cholesterol are associated with obesity and heart disease.
- Comprehensive metabolic panel: This test measures the quantities of electrolytes, enzymes, and minerals in the body. Several parameters on the comprehensive metabolic panel are disturbed in case the person is obese or suffers from heart disease, making this test an important blood test for weight loss.
- Blood Sugar & HbA1c: High blood sugar and the presence of HbA1c in the blood indicates diabetes. Diabetes is associated with obesity, and also poses a great risk to cardiac health.
- Hormone testing for weight loss: Hormones such as thyroxine, adrenaline, cortisol, estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, and dehydroepiandrosterone are closely associated with the body’s metabolism and affect how many calories it burns. Testing for the levels of these hormones can enable detection of an underlying endocrine reason for obesity and is an important blood test for weight loss.
- Liver Function Tests: Checking for an optimal liver function is essential in testing for obesity. Obese individuals are at a higher risk of developing fatty liver syndrome and other liver disorders.
- Other Tests: A number of other tests such as complete blood counts, C-reactive protein estimation, and homocysteine analysis are important blood tests for weight loss, as they allow doctors to look for conditions such as anemia, general bodily inflammation, and metabolic disorders.
- There also exist other laboratory examinations to help doctors diagnose obesity and its causes, these tests are:
- Food sensitivity test for weight loss: Food sensitivity is a leading cause of low-grade inflammation in the body. Understanding whether you are sensitive to any type of food is integral to aiding weight loss. Food sensitivity tests involve elimination diets that enable doctors to detect foods that cause reactions in patients. Low-grade inflammation is a great impediment to weight loss and can be detected using a food sensitivity test.
- DNA test for weight loss: Genetic testing is an important factor in determining familial obesity risks, and in also assessing the risks of acquiring other conditions. New developments in gene sequencing and the understanding of the human genome have also helped doctors and scientists to understand how individuals process and metabolize nutrients differently from one another, leading to a new perspective on nutrition, obesity, and weight loss.
- Metabolism test for weight loss: Metabolic tests are some of the best supplements to physical examinations and indices, as they measure the number of calories burned by the individual while at a resting state. Everyone’s metabolic rates are distinct and are affected by several factors such as physical activity, weight, height, genetic traits, and hormonal equilibrium. There exist three different types of metabolism tests for weight loss, these include:
- Indirect calorimetry: This test involves the comparison of the amount of oxygen you breathe in vs. the amount of carbon dioxide you breathe out over some time in a resting state.
- Direct calorimetry: Direct calorimetry measures the amount of heat your body emits over an hour to calculate the number of calories burned. This test is more accurate compared to indirect calorimetry, however, it is available in only extremely high-tech research facilities and is often not available to the general public.
- VO2 Max Test: This test is more suited to athletes looking to optimize their fitness levels for their sport and performance expectations. It involves the measurement of oxygen consumption when you are running at full capacity over a treadmill. The analysis allows the augmentation of diet and exercise routines.
Once you have your weight loss test results, make sure you coordinate with your doctor and nutritionist so you have a good plan in place to work towards better health. Obesity has a variety of causative factors, with these tests one can understand the exact cause of the problem and work toward achieving a healthier lifestyle and body weight.