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Show Us What You’re Made Of: a full body composition scan can help track your new year’s resolution

With every New Year comes a new debate over which diet or exercise routine works ‘the best’. Tis the season where people fly by on treadmills, and paleo cookbooks fly off store shelves.


Full body scans taken with the IDXA machine. Left, a regular X-ray; center, a bone density map; right, a fat density map.

The truth is, every body type is different, and so are individual results.  This phenomenon can weigh heavily on fitness fanatics who work-out feverishly but fail to slim down as easily as their muscle building fat burning cardio counterparts.

When it comes to how our bodies store and burn fat, there’s no getting around it, it’s a process determined by nobody other than our unique metabolism. Knowing how the metabolism works is key to deciding which diet and exercise regimen is best. If the mission is to get fit, and you’re in tune with your metabolism, making the right resolutions to get the right results is achievable.  But how do you really know if what appears to be working on the outside, is really working on the inside? That’s where imaging technology to see inside the body, under the muffin top, can help.

Up until now, working out one’s muscle-to-fat ratio, or body composition, has been a mixed bag, a combination of medical tests, pinches with calipers and guesswork.  An iDXA (pronounced i-dexa) machine removes the guess work to show you what’s really hiding in the waistline and under that belly fat to image inside the body.

Dr. Mary Oates M.D., from Marian Regional Medical Center in California, brought along one of her patients, Annie Shanks, to the Hallmark Channel’s morning TV show Home and Family to demonstrate how an iDXA works.  The machine emits a very low dose of X-ray (the equivalent dose that you might absorb if you spent one hour on an airplane) that is picked up by the scanner and translated in to data about bone, body tissue and fat.

“It is the gold standard now for body composition testing,” said Dr. Oates. “I can scan Annie, and her bone, lean tissue and fat will show up in a nice picture and we will be able to trend that over time.”

“Around the belly, or around the waist, we have fat,” said Dr. Oates. “And that comes in two layers. Directly beneath the skin we have subcutaneous fat, and below the abdominal muscles we have visceral adipose tissue, which we nickname V.A.T. We also call it ‘the bad fat’. It’s the fat that surrounds and clogs the internal organs, and it’s the fat that we now know is linked to a lot of inflammation and bad metabolic disease.”

The usage of iDXA scans to measure body composition (used by trainers from the NFL and NBC’s hit reality show The Biggest Loser) is gaining in popularity, but in the clinical environment, the scanning system is most commonly used  to measure bone density or bone densitometry. This type of scan is crucial to assessing the risk of osteoporosis, or brittle bones, especially in older people and women past menopause.

In Annie’s case, she has recently reduced her intake of dairy, and it shows.   In approximately ten minutes, using an iDXA, Annie’s bone density, body composition and fat distribution can be assessed by Dr. Oates and a plan of action can be put in place to help reduce her risk for osteoporosis.

More Information

Lunar iDXA for Metabolic Health