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Open Access Research article

The utility of fat mass index vs. body mass index and percentage of body fat in the screening of metabolic syndrome

Pengju Liu1, Fang Ma13*, Huiping Lou2 and Yanping Liu1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Clinical Nutrition, Peking Union Medical College Hospital, China Academic Medical Science and Peking Union Medical College, Beijing 100730, China

2 Department of Medical examination center, Peking Union Medical College Hospital, China Academic Medical Science and Peking Union Medical College, Beijing 100730, China

3 No.1 ShuaiFuyuan, Wang Fujing ST, Dongcheng District, Beijing 100730, China

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:629  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-629

Published: 3 July 2013



It has been well documented that obesity is closely associated with metabolic syndrome (MetS). Although body mass index (BMI) is the most frequently used method to assess overweightness and obesity, this method has been criticized because BMI does not always reflect true body fatness, which may be better evaluated by assessment of body fat and fat-free mass. The objective of this study was to investigate the best indicator to predict the presence of MetS among fat mass index, BMI and percentage of body fat (BF %) and determine its optimal cut-off value in the screening of MetS in practice.


A cross-sectional study of 1698 subjects (aged 20–79 years) who participated in the annual health check-ups was employed. Body composition was measured by bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA). Fat mass index (FMI) was calculated. Sex-specific FMI quartiles were defined as follows: Q1: <4.39, Q2:4.39- < 5.65, Q3:5.65- < 7.03, Q4:≥7.03,in men; and Q1:<5.25, Q2:5.25- < 6.33, Q3:6.33- < 7.93,Q4:≥7.93, in women. MetS was defined by National Cholesterol Education Program/Adult Treatment Panel III criteria. The association between FMI quartiles and MetS was assessed using Binary logistic regression. Receiver operating curve(ROC) analysis was used to determine optimal cutoff points for BMI,BF% and FMI in relation to the area under the curve(AUC),sensitivity and specificity in men and women.


The adjusted odds ratios (95% CI) for the presence of MetS in the highest FMI quartile versus lowest quartile were 79.143(21.243-294.852) for men( P < 0.01) and 52.039(4.144-653.436) for women( P < 0.01) after adjusting age, BMI, BF%, TC, LDL, CRP, smoking status and exercise status, and the odds ratios were 9.166(2.157-38.952) for men( P < 0.01) and 25.574(1.945-336.228) for women( P < 0.05) when WC was also added into the adjustment. It was determined that BMI values of 27.45 and 23.85 kg/m2, BF% of 23.95% and 31.35% and FMI of 7.00 and 7.90 kg/m2 were the optimal cutoff values to predict the presence of MetS among men and women according to the ROC curve analysis. Among the indicators used to predict MetS, FMI was the index that showed the greatest area under the ROC curve in both sexes.


Higher FMI levels appear to be independently and positively associated with the presence of MetS regardless of BMI and BF%. FMI seems to be a better screening tool in prediction of the presence of metabolic syndrome than BMI and percentage of body fat in men and women.

Metabolic syndrome X; Body composition; Fat mass index; Body mass index; Percentage of body fat; Screening