Original Article

European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2014) 68, 229–233; doi:10.1038/ejcn.2013.220; published online 30 October 2013

Body composition, energy expenditure and physical activity

Hand length as an alternative measurement of height

R S Guerra1,2,3, I Fonseca3, F Pichel3, M T Restivo2 and T F Amaral2,4

  1. 1Departamento de Bioquímica, Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade do Porto, Portugal
  2. 2UISPA-IDMEC, Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto, Portugal
  3. 3Centro Hospitalar do Porto, Portugal
  4. 4Faculdade de Ciências da Nutrição e Alimentação da Universidade do Porto, Portugal

Correspondence: Dr RS Guerra, Departamento de Bioquímica, Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade do Porto, Al. Professor Hernâni Monteiro, Porto, 4200-319, Portugal. E-mail: pdmce09001@med.up.pt

Received 21 June 2013; Revised 26 September 2013; Accepted 27 September 2013
Advance online publication 30 October 2013





Despite the utmost importance of body height in evaluating nutritional status, it is not always possible to obtain its measurement and height may have to be estimated. The objective of the study was to formulate and cross-validate a regression equation to predict height using hand length measurement and also to determine if predicted height (PH) will lead to significant errors when used in body mass index (BMI) calculation.



A cross-sectional study was conducted using a consecutive sample of 465 inpatients (19–91 years), from a university hospital. Participants were randomly divided into a development sample of 311 individuals and a cross-validation one. A linear regression model was used to formulate the equation. Intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs) for single measures and differences between measured height (MH) and PH and between BMI calculated with MH (BMIMH) and with PH (BMIPH) were determined.



The regression equation for PH is: PH (cm)=80.400+5.122 × hand length (cm)—0.195 × age (years)+6.383 × gender (gender: women 0, men 1) (R=0.87, s.e. of the estimate=4.98cm). MH and PH were strongly correlated, ICCs: 0.67-0.74 (P<0.001). Differences were small, mean difference±s.d., less than or equal to−0.6±4.4cm (Pgreater than or equal to0.24). BMIMH and BMIPH were strongly correlated, ICCs: 0.94-0.96 (P<0.001). Differences were small, less than or equal to0.3±1.7kg/m2 (Pgreater than or equal to0.10).



The formulated regression equation using hand length, age and gender provides a valid estimation of height and is useful in the clinical context. PH from this regression equation can be used in BMI calculations as misclassification is small.


body height; hand length; nutritional assessment; body mass index; prediction

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