Las Vegas company develops cheap, accurate body fat test
25 February 2013
As a yoga teacher and computer nerd, Ileana Stefanescu wanted to find a way to use technology to help people become healthier.
One of the key indicators of health is body fat. It’s also one of the most difficult to measure.
The most accurate methods require laboratory conditions and equipment that costs tens of thousands of dollars.
Stefanescu found a place to use her computer skills and wellness expertise in Las Vegas, working at the Health Profile Institute, a health promotion and assessment company. She helped develop an inexpensive and accurate test for body fat that anyone can use.
The Integrative Body Composition Assessment is a kit about the size of an iPad that can be used at the gym or at home. It includes a digital caliper to take wrist measurements, a cloth tape for waist measurements and software that evaluates a person’s age, gender, height, weight, waist measurement and wrist diameter. Wrist measurements help categorize body frame, a key factor in determining body fat. The device also takes into account a person’s exercise regimen.
The test takes less than five minutes and provides body fat ratings in six categories.
“You don’t need special skills to do it,” Stefanescu said.
The institute will unveil the product in March during the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association Trade Show and Convention at Mandalay Bay. The company has not yet determined a price, but officials say it will cost less than $300.
Until now, getting the most accurate body fat results involved weighing people in underwater tanks or using special X-ray and imaging techniques. Tests had to be done in laboratories, and the cost made them unfeasible for most people. Even simpler methods, such as measuring skin fold thickness, had questionable accuracy and required special training.
“The gold standard is still the underwater weighing technique, but all that requires water tanks and oxygen equipment that can cost $50,000,” Stefanescu said. “We wanted to find a faster and easier way to access body composition.”
The Health Profile Institute is a privately owned Swedish company that moved to the United States in 2007, hoping to expand the market for the personal health assessments it had been selling in Europe for 30 years. The company sells the tests to businesses as a way of evaluating employees’ health and well-being.
The decision to move to Las Vegas was easy. Anders Mjardsjo, who heads the institute’s U.S. operations, already lived and worked here as CEO of DynaWell Diagnostics, which manufactures imaging equipment for MRI and CT scans. DynaWell and the Health Profile Institute are owned by Swedish businessman Thomas Petersson.
Mjardsjo had moved DynaWell from Los Angeles to Las Vegas because of Nevada’s more favorable tax structure.
“It’s important that we operate in a business-friendly environment, and Las Vegas still appears to be the best place to operate,” Mjardsjo said. “Our goal is to set up an international network of distributors and run everything from Las Vegas.”
The institute also has offices in South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.
Stefanescu moved to the United States about the same time Mjardsjo was setting up the institute’s Las Vegas office. She studied computer science and quantum physics at the University of Bucharest and taught yoga for more than 20 years and began working on the new body fat assessment with Gunnar Anderson, director of development for the Health Profile Institute in Sweden. The assessment is the first new product the institute developed in the United States.
The company spent two years testing the method with help from students and staff at the UNLV College of Health Sciences. The study compared the Integrative Body Composition Assessment to other body fat assessments and found the institute’s method was most accurate
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