“Have you heard of a company called Skulpt? They claim to measure body composition more accurately than body fat scales. What do you think about it?”
Skulpt makes a device that’s designed to measure both muscle quality and body fat percentage.
It’s shaped a little like an iPhone, with sensors on the back.
You place it over your muscles, and hold it in place for a few seconds.
It’s then supposed to “instantly and accurately measure body fat percentage and the muscle quality of each muscle.” Here’s a video of a guy using the Skulpt Scanner if you’d like to watch.
Skulpt makes a number of very specific claims, including that their device is 5 times more accurate than body fat scales, 3-4 times more accurate than skinfold calipers, and within 1-2% of underwater weighing.
It all looks very exciting and scientific.
But there isn’t anything on the website to support their claims, other than this:
“Electrical impedance myography (EIM) is based on over a decade of research at Harvard and MIT, and has previously been used in collaboration with NASA. Initially developed for the medical space, Skulpt introduces EIM to the consumer market with its two products: Aim and Chisel.”
So I had a dig through the research to see what I could find.
But none of them used it to track changes in body composition over time.
Skulpt makes a lot of bold claims about what their products can do.
But once you look past all the puffery about “decades of research at Harvard” and “collaboration with NASA” there is no hard data to back those claims up.
If the Skulpt Scanner is more accurate than body fat scales (which wouldn’t be difficult) and “within 1-2% of underwater weighing,” then presumably the people who make the product must have done the research to back those claims up.
If so, where is it?
And a study that looks at group averages isn’t going to be enough.
Let’s say that a particular body fat test overestimates body fat percentage in half your subjects by 5%, and underestimates it in the other half by 5%.
When looking at the group results as a whole, the average error size is zero.
But the results for each individual are way out.
Just because a body fat test does a good job at estimating group averages, it doesn’t follow that it’s equally as good at tracking individual changes in body composition.
I wrote to the people at Skulpt, with a simple question:
“I’m interesting in finding out more about the science behind EIM. Do you have links to any research that compares it with the 4-compartment model, in terms of its ability to track individual changes in body composition over time?”
Other than an automated reply saying that my message had been received, I heard nothing.
A body fat test is less of a measurement than it is a prediction.
An “educated guess” about what your body composition really is.
In that sense, the Skulpt Scanner is no different than body fat scales, DEXA, the Bod Pod and all the others, which are a lot less accurate than the people who make them would have you believe.
Perhaps, in a parallel universe somewhere, EIM is the gold standard for body fat testing.
But, at this present location in space and time, there is no evidence that it does a better job at tracking changes in body composition than anything else.
SEE ALSO: THE FLAT BELLY CHEAT SHEET
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ABOUT CHRISTIAN FINNChristian Finn holds a master's degree with distinction in exercise science, is a former personal trainer and has been featured on BBC TV and radio, as well as in Men's Health, Men's Fitness, Fit Pro, Zest, and Perfect Body magazine.