Advantages and Limitations of Anthropometric Measurements

Anthropometric measurements are noninvasive. Compared with other methods of assessing nutritional status, the measurements are quick and easy to make using relatively cheap and simple equipment. They can be made by relatively unskilled people.

Anthropometric measurements cannot identify protein and micronutrient deficiencies, detect small disturbances in nutritional status, nor identify small changes in the proportions of body fat to lean body mass. Some anthropometric measurements may not be socially or culturally acceptable, such as the measurement by men of womens' subscapular and supra-iliac skinfold thicknesses; some measurements may be impractical to make, such as the height in people who are unable to stand straight. Observers with limited literacy skills may not be able to read and therefore record some measurements. A single anthropometric measurement, such as weight, does not normally in itself assess growth and/or body composition and, therefore, indicate nutritional status. To interpret anthropometric measurements, single measurements or combinations of measurements must be compared with reference values, by age and sex. Such reference values are not available for all population groups nor for all ages.

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