DEXA scan. Why everyone in Australia needs one.

By October 8, 2015General Health

body-composition-measurement

“We’re fatter than America.

Australia’s obesity epidemic has been drastically underestimated. A comprehensive study shows nine million adults are fatter than they should be, making Australia the world’s most overweight nation ” The Australian 

How do we really know if Australians are fatter than Americans?
 

It could be that Tourism Australia ads are a more accurate portrayal of Australians. Australia might be a nation of active, health conscious, muscle bound, fit and fun loving people. We don’t actually know. It could be Australians are keenly aware the key to an active and healthy body is keeping and building lean muscle and, shedding abdominal fat. I guess the same could be true for the Americans….. BUT…(sorry Americans)…The only way we know if Australia is actually the fattest nation is if we all measure our body fat. There are various methods to determine body composition. However, the most accurate and reliable way of measuring your body composition is with a DEXA scan. 

How researchers determined Australia is the fattest nation was through the collection of height and weight data from a number of countries. They then used this data to calculate each person’s BMI and compared results. BMI is a good way to compare large populations but it has its limitations.

The problem is BMI only takes into account weight and height. Scales give you a total of how much everything in your body weighs. Your body is composed of bone, muscle and fat. Not everyone is average. A lot of health recommendations are made based on BMI but may not reflect the needs of the individual.

Other than proving Tourism Australia right and medical researchers wrong, what other reasons are there to get a DEXA scan? Here are 7 reasons to get a DEXA scan.

1. Set a baseline and track your progress.

If your goal is to get fit, lose weight or tone up, how do you know your diet or exercise program is working? Establishing a baseline of your body fat percentage and muscle mass helps you see the reward for your efforts.

2. Monitor your visceral fat with a DEXA scan. 

Where you store your body fat is important. Fat stored around your abdomen and organs is more toxic than fat around your hips. Keeping an eye on your ratio of abdomen to hip fat can help you avoid chronic disease.

3. Measure your muscle mass. It’s important. 

Muscle burns calories even when you are just sitting there. Muscles are your body’s metabolic engine. The larger this engine, the more capacity your body has for regulating your fat gain/loss.

As you age, it also becomes harder to put on lean muscle. Key to longer active living is keeping enough lean muscle mass and bone density throughout your life. Tracking your body composition can help keep this top of mind.

4. Ensure you have enough body fat.

For those who lift, a degree of intramuscular fat is advantageous.  You can actually improve your squat and bench by keeping your muscles well marbled. Interestingly, it does not improve your deadlift.

5. How many calories do you need to achieve your health goals?

When you diet, it is very important you do not restrict your calories to the point where your body starts burning muscle instead of fat. You will drop weight on the scale but you will lose precious calorie burning muscle. This makes it harder to keep future weight off. Your bathroom scales wont tell you the true cost of your dieting.

6. Quantify symmetry or muscle imbalance with a DEXA scan.

Symmetry of your muscle mass doesn’t just win you body building competitions. It’s important for optimal performance, rehab and injury prevention.  The more information you have, the more targeted you can be.  

7. DEXA scans are accurate and reliable.

Calipers, Body Fat Calculators and Bio-impedance are inaccurate, inconsistent or subject to human error (sorry Personal Trainers). DEXA scans allow you to track exactly what and where changes are happening over time.

If you have made the decision to lose or gain weight, remember the number on your bathroom scales ultimately means nothing.  The best measurement of success is to know if you are really losing body fat and /or gaining muscle. Your bathroom scales can’t tell you that. Only a DEXA scan can.

About the Author – Dr Mike Badke

Dr-Mike-Badke

“Active Muscle and Spine is about supporting people leading active lives. If your  performance really matters or you are serious about getting better then we should be your first choice”.

About Dr Mike Badke.