Today, DEXA is universally regarded as the ‘Gold Standard’ for measuring body composition, not only for its high resolution results and precision but also for its ease of use, speed and regional data (arms, legs and trunk). Here are some questions we get asked a lot:

  • What is a DEXA Body Fat Composition Scan?
  • What are the benefits?
  • How do we find your baseline?
  • What’s involved?
  • Is the scan safe?
  • How does DEXA compare to other methods?
What is a DEXA Body Fat Composition Scan?

DEXA (or DXA) is a medical scanning technology originally developed to measure bone density. It passes a very low dose of dual-energy X-rays through the body to provide a high resolution image and precise measurement of body composition – specifically bone, fat and lean mass.

What are the benefits?

Healthy Imaging will give you an accurate baseline showing precisely how much fat and lean mass you have so you can set a realistic, achievable target. Subsequent scans serve to keep you motivated and make the necessary changes to achieve your goal, either alone or with your personal trainer.

How do we find your baseline?

DEXA (DXA) for body composition measurement is becoming a common way to find out what your personal baseline is; prior to starting a new eating plan or training program.

Healthy Imaging DEXA scan will:

  • Find out exactly how much fat and muscle you have;
  • Establish a baseline prior to a new exercise/diet program;
  • Monitor your muscle growth and body fat loss;
  • Get a more complete picture of your relative health risk; and
  • Get meaningful data based purely on the amount and distribution of fat and lean mass in your body.
What’s involved?

A DEXA scan is quick, painless and non-invasive. You will be instructed to lie flat on a padded table, staying very still, while the scanning arm passes above you. You remain fully clothed, preferably underwear, shorts and t-shirt or similar though you may be asked to remove heavy clothing, shoes, jewellery and metal objects. We have gowns available if needed. The scan will take around 10 minutes and your DEXA report will be ready immediately. Too easy!

Is the scan safe?

DEXA is completely safe and uses a tiny dose of radiation, one of the smallest doses in the medical field. A DEXA scan uses the equivalent of less than 10% of one day’s exposure to natural background radiation. By comparison, a chest X-ray uses the equivalent of about five days’ exposure to natural background radiation.

How does DEXA compare to other methods?

Weighing Scales
These tell you nothing more than your relationship with gravity. Even if you achieve the nirvana of gaining muscle while simultaneously losing fat, your bathroom scales probably won’t budge. Remember, nobody wants to lose weight – what everybody really wants to lose is fat, and scales are clueless about fat.

Calipers rely completely on the person doing the measurements and which formula is applied. For any chance of a reasonable result, caliper readings must be done by a skilled technician who needs to be meticulous in technique. A measurement taken just one or two centimetres away from a defined site can lead to wildly different results. What’s more, calipers only measure subcutaneous fat, which lies just under the skin’s surface. They are completely blind to the visceral fat that surrounds your internal organs and which has been linked to heart disease, diabetes and even cancer.

Hydrostatic Weighing
Sometimes known as the ‘Dunk Tank’ is time-consuming, uncomfortable and relies on an estimate of the amount of air in your lungs and digestive tract. Underwater weighing also ignores the fact that the density of fat-free mass changes with weight and ethnicity.

Bod Pod
This method uses air displacement plethysmography (ADP) and is very poor at tracking changes over time. It is adversely affected by many variables (including clothing, temperature and moisture) and typically overestimates body fat.

Bioelectrical Impedance
These devices and ‘fat scales’ are notoriously unreliable and typically underestimate body fat. The gadgets are adversely affected by hydration levels and most only work on the upper or lower half of the body. Bio-impedance is often no more accurate a measure of body composition than the discredited body mass index (BMI). DEXA does not rely on the skills of the operator and is not affected by human error, bad calibration or what you had for breakfast. What’s more, only DEXA shows you (visually and with hard data) the distribution of fat in all sub-regions of the body – arms, legs and trunk

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