Predicting body fat percentage from anthropometric and laboratory measurements using artificial neural networks

Tamás Ferenci, L. Kovács

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose of the research: Obesity is a major public health problem with rapidly growing prevalence and serious associated health risks. Characterized by excess body fat, the accurate measurement of obesity is a non-trivial question. Widely used indicators, such as the body mass index often poorly predict actual risk, but the direct measurement of body fat mass is complicated. The aim of the present research is to investigate how well can body fat percentage be predicted from easily measureable data: age, gender, weight, height, waist circumference and different laboratory results. For that end, linear regression, feedforward neural networks and support vector machines are applied on the data of a representative US health survey ( n= 862) using adult males. Optimal parameters are chosen and bootstrap validation is used to get realistic error estimates. Results: No methods can well predict the body fat percentage, but support vector machines slightly outperformed feedforward neural networks and linear regression (root mean square error 0.0988. ±. 0.00288, 0.108. ±. 0.00928 and 0.107. ±. 0.012 respectively). Conclusion: Even this best performance means that soft computing methods had an R 2 of 44%, but this slight advantage is balanced by the fact that regression models are clinically interpretable.

Original languageEnglish
JournalApplied Soft Computing Journal
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 25 2017



  • Body composition
  • Body fat percentage
  • Neural network
  • Obesity
  • Prediction
  • Support vector machine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software

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