Body mass index (BMI) during adolescence is a known predictor of what a teen will weigh as an adult. However, because BMI cannot distinguish between lean and fat body mass, is skinfold thickness a better indicator of body fat in adulthood? A new study says that yes, skinfold thickness is the superior measurement.

As part of the prospective Amsterdam Growth and Health Longitudinal Study, 350 young adults were measured eight different times for BMI and skinfold thickness, during the period between 1976 and 2000.

At the end of the study period, the teens’ skinfold thickness was more strongly associated with adult body fatness than were the participants’ BMI measurements.

Reporting their results in the June issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the researchers concluded that “skinfold thickness during adolescence is a better predictor of high body fatness during adulthood than is BMI during adolescence.”