Healthometer tells body-fat percentage along with weight...

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July 18, 2002|By Mike Himowitz

Healthometer tells body-fat percentage along with weight

If you're wondering what a bathroom scale is doing in a technology column, you haven't seen Sunbeam's Healthometer Professional Body Fat Monitor and Scale, an ingenious gadget that invokes the full authority of digital science when it tells you that you're out of shape (as if you didn't know already).

The $70 Healthometer is a bit larger than an average bathroom scale, displaying your vital stats on a sharp liquid crystal display (it needs a 9-volt battery; not included). Unlike a normal scale, however, this one sports a variety of buttons and two toe-tapping panels that allow you to enter and store age, gender and height information for two people.

Once the scale has been programmed, just tap a toe panel to let it know which human it's measuring and climb aboard. The scale not only weighs you, but also shoots a minuscule electric current through your body. Using a process called bioelectronic impedance analysis, based on the premise that fat and muscle conduct electricity differently, it computes and displays your body-fat percentage.

All of this worked well when we tried it (I won't even mention my results, which are off the charts). I have only two quibbles. First, the scale should be able to handle more than two people - I can't imagine a household with two adults and one or more teen-agers where the two-person limit wouldn't cause arguments.

Second, the instruction manual includes one of those horrid height-weight-age charts that lets you take your body fat reading and determine how in-shape or out-of-shape you are. There is no question that I'm far into the "out" range, but my sons - both of whom work out regularly and are quite in-shape - scored far lower than I expected.

A few nights later we tried it with group of my sons' friends, including several other former wrestlers - strong young men who've spent half their lives dieting to make weight and know something about physical conditioning. They were satisfied with the accuracy of the body-fat readings, but the table in the manual produced great hilarity - the only one who scored "in-shape" was the skinny, 97-pound weakling of the bunch.

The bottom line: If you're interested in a scale that goes beyond a mere weigh-in, the Healthometer will tell how much of you is fat - a good thing to know. Just don't let the manual's interpretation give you an inferiority complex.

Information: 800-435-1250 or www.healthometer.com.

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