Broadway Radiology

Body Composition

What is body composition, and why is it important?

Body composition is the term used to describe the different components that, when taken together, make up a person's body weight. The human body is composed of a variety of different tissue types including lean tissues (muscle, bone, and organs) that are metabolically active, and fat (adipose) tissue that is not. If you have too much fat - especially if a lot of it is at your waist – you are at higher risk for health problems such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes. That increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. Visceral Adipose Tissue (VAT) – or fat around abdominal organs – has been shown to be a risk factor for all causes of mortality in men and is associated with metabolic risk factors (triglycerides, cholesterol, fasting glucose, hypertension) and cardiovascular disease.

Obesity is now recognized as a major, independent risk factor for heart disease. If you're overweight or obese, you can reduce your risk for heart disease by successfully losing weight and keeping it off. Body composition analysis can more accurately determine a person’s risk of developing obesity-related diseases than a BMI score as it measures the amount of excess fat present and where it is stored, which has been shown to make a considerable difference in health outcomes.

Not just for weight management: Determining body fat distribution through body composition scans is an important assessment tool many personal trainers choose for their clients – particularly those at the beginning of their exercise regime. With information from a DEXA scan you can establish a baseline and track body composition changes over time and design a specific program that will help you reach your goals; build muscle, lose fat or both. Information from the DEXA scan provides specific quantitative information on your ideal caloric intake and energy expenditure, to help you achieve your health goals and improve total body health.

Body composition testing determines how much of your body is and isn't fat. The non-fat part of your body is called lean tissue, which includes your muscle, water, bone and organs. Lean tissue is known as metabolically active tissue, the tissue that burns calories all day. The more lean tissue you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate will be. The fat part is body fat. Body fat is a storage form of energy and therefore has a very low calorie demand.

Body composition measurement with Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) is used increasingly for a variety of clinical and research applications. DEXA Scan is a medical grade test and considered the Gold Standard in body composition testing over 99% accurate. Total body or estimated total body scans using DEXA give accurate and precise measurements of BMD and body composition, including bone mineral content (BMC), bone mineral density (BMD), lean tissue mass, fat tissue mass, and fractional contribution of fat.

How does it work?

Equipment required: DEXA machine, which differentiates body weight into the components of lean soft tissue, fat soft tissue and bone, based on the differential attenuation by tissues of two levels of x-rays.

Procedure: The person lays on the whole body scanner, with the x-ray sources mounted beneath a table and a detector overhead. The person is scanned with photons that are generated by two low-dose x-rays at different energy levels. The body's absorption of the photons at the two levels is measured. The ratios can be then used to predict total body fat, fat-free mass, and total body bone mineral. The procedure can take about 10 - 20 minutes. There are no injections, it is non-invasive and painless.

Advantages: This method is precise, accurate, and reliable. DEXA measurements are based on a three compartmental model (total body mineral (from bones), fat-free soft (lean) mass, and fat tissue mass) rather than two compartment as in most other methods. DEXA can also distinguish regional as well as whole body parameters of body composition. As such, it is considered a reference standard, and the latest body composition research uses this method.

Reporting: Uses the Fat Mass Index (FMI), a measurement ratio of fat mass to height squared, which may be a better indicator of obesity.

Who may benefit from a body composition analysis?

  • Patients participating in a weight management program
  • Bariatric surgery patient
  • Sarcopenic patients with a concern of muscle loss
  • Athletes in a training or rehabilitation program
  • Diabetes patients
  • Anorexia patients

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