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Body composition, energy expenditure and physical activity

Hand length as an alternative measurement of height



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=4.98 cm). MH and PH were strongly correlated, ICCs: 0.67-0.74 (P<0.001). Differences were small, mean difference±s.d., −0.6±4.4 cm (P0.24). BMIMH and BMIPH were strongly correlated, ICCs: 0.94-0.96 (P<0.001). Differences were small, 0.3±1.7 kg/m2 (P0.10).


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.

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We thank the Centro Hospitalar do Porto and all ward directors for facilitating the data collection. Rita S Guerra as a Ph.D. student is receiving a scholarship from FCT – Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia under the project (SFRH/BD/61656/2009).

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Correspondence to R S Guerra.

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Guerra, R., Fonseca, I., Pichel, F. et al. Hand length as an alternative measurement of height. Eur J Clin Nutr 68, 229–233 (2014).

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