Body composition describes the percentage of fat, bone and muscle in the body. What is considered a healthy body composition varies between males and females and different age groups. For example, healthy body fat ranges increase in older age groups.
Do I need to know the breakdown of my muscle and fat?
Knowing your body composition can help you recognise if your lifestyle choices are having a positive or negative impact on your health. Having too little body fat is linked to problems with normal functioning in both men and women. Likewise, when body fat is too high, the risk of chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and stroke, is increased. Importantly, research indicates that the risk of such diseases is higher when too much body fat is located around the abdomen (visceral fat).
What scan should I use?
A DEXA body composition scan, which stands for dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, passes two very low dose x-ray beams, with differing energy levels, through the tissues of the body. It provides measures and information on the specific distribution of lean muscle, fat, water and bone within the body.
A BIA, or Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis, determines the electrical impedance, or resistance to flow of an electrical current sent through the body. This provides an estimate of total body water, which can then be used to estimate general body fat.
There are advantages and disadvantages of using a DEXA scan or BIA (i.e. Tanita scale). For instance, whilst a DEXA scan can tell you the distribution of body fat in the body (that a BIA cannot), it is more expensive and takes longer to complete. Alternatively, a BIA is a much less expensive way of finding out how much body fat and muscle mass you have and can be conducted regularly.
Nonetheless, both DEXA scans and Tanita Scales are great forms of feedback and can help you track the progress of your health over time.
Stay tuned for next week where we will be discussing whether there is one form of exercise that is better than others for weight loss.
Written by Courtney Maher