What a body scan REALLY tells you

Ever wondered what information you get from a body scan? Advanced scanners can reveal your true bone age, whether you're at risk from diabetes and heart disease - and as long as you go to a clinic with the right expertise - how to lower your risk of all of these serious conditions. The ideal body scanner to look for is a DEXA. DEXA – also referred to as DXA – is short for dual energy X-ray absorptiometry.

body composition scan

A low radiation DEXA scanner

A DEXA scanner has the advantage of using a far lower radiation level than CT scan or MRIs.  You don’t need to be referred to a doctor. You can walk into a clinic and discover the true state of your health with a quick, safe and non-invasive scan. The level of radiation is so low, the operator remains in the room with you.

The DEXA scan is best known for its super-accurate method of detecting the risk of osteoporosis. A DEXA measurement compares and calculates your bone density to other people who are the same age and sex, giving a good indication as to whether you’re at risk of conditions such as osteoporosis and osteopenia- when the bone thins - often a precursor to osteoporosis.

If a DEXA scan reveals you are at risk from osteoporosis you can make lifestyle changes in consultation with your doctor – such as taking vitamin D, upping your weight-bearing exercise, or, if needed, you can take bone-strengthening drugs.


fat composition

DEXA for body composition

However, a DEXA scan isn’t just for detecting osteoporosis. A DEXA scanner with advanced diagnostic features can offer a huge insight into your overall health, and inform you of any necessary changes to diet and your exercise regime.

Look for a DEXA scanner with ‘Advanced Body Composition’ software, which can provide a reading of the total fat in the trunk area of your body. Abdominal obesity or excess stomach fat has been seen to contribute more to the risk for heart disease than excess fat in other parts of the body, such as in the hips. A DEXA reading can indicate whether you’re at risk of this.

The DEXA ‘Core Scan’ option gives an even greater reliability, and can tell whether the fat is visceral fat - the kind that wraps itself around the internal organs such as the liver, pancreas and intestines - risk factors for diabetes, heart disease and cancer rise.

Fat cells in the abdomen are broken down rapidly and routinely, releasing fatty acids, hormones, and chemical messengers that can trigger heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.


Visceral fat

Reduce your risks from visceral fat

The advantage of these readings is knowledge is power. Once you know you are at risk from visceral fat, you can find ways to reduce your risks.

Cutting carbohydrates, such as sugary foods, bread, potatoes and rice is a good move.

Too many carbs make your body create more insulin. Insulin signals to the body that it should be storing fat.

It’s tempting to start targeted exercise to get rid of belly fat, but this won’t on its own do much for visceral fat. Your best option is to do a mixture of aerobic exercise – the kind that gets you out of breath, as well as strength training.


lean body composition

A report prepared by an expert in DEXA

Whenever you have a scan done, it's always important to make sure any information you are given is put into context by a medical professional. Professor David Reid, one of the UK's leading authorities on DEXA and a consultant rheumatologist at Twenty-five Harley Street says: "One in two women over the age of 50 will have an osteoporosis related fracture in their lifetime but the good news is that fracture risk can both be predicted and in many cases safely prevented by treatment." He adds: "The fact that DEXA can also reveal visceral fat distribution makes DEXA a very valuable tool."

Find out more about DEXA scanning at Twenty-five Harley Street Day Clinic 25 Harley Street, London, W1G 9QW Telephone 020 3883 9525, or email appointments@25harleystreet.co.uk.

The part of the body that contains the stomach, intestines, liver, gallbladder and other organs. Full medical glossary
Abnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. Full medical glossary
A group of compounds that are an important energy source, including sugars and starch. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of all living organisms. Full medical glossary
The abbreviation for computed tomography, a scan that generates a series of cross-sectional x-ray images Full medical glossary
A disorder caused by insufficient or absent production of the hormone insulin by the pancreas, or because the tissues are resistant to the effects. Full medical glossary
A means of measuring bone density. Full medical glossary
An abbreviation for dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. Full medical glossary
One of the three main food constituents (with carbohydrate and protein), and the main form in which energy is stored in the body. Full medical glossary
A substance produced by a gland in one part of the body and carried by the blood to the organs or tissues where it has an effect. Full medical glossary
A hormone produced by the beta cells of the pancreas that acts to lower blood glucose levels. Full medical glossary
The section of gut, or gastrointestinal tract, from the stomach to the anus. Full medical glossary
The major part of the digestive tract. Full medical glossary
A large abdominal organ that has many important roles including the production of bile and clotting factors, detoxification, and the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Full medical glossary
An abbreviation for magnetic resonance imaging, a technique for imaging the body that uses electromagnetic waves and a strong magnetic field. Full medical glossary
Any test or technique that does not involve penetration of the skin. The term 'non-invasive' may also describe tumours that do not invade surrounding tissues. Full medical glossary
Excess accumulation of fat in the body. Full medical glossary

A  condition in which the protein and mineral content of bone tissue is reduced, but less severely than in osteoporosis.

Full medical glossary
A condition resulting in brittle bones due to loss of bony tissue. Full medical glossary
A gland behind the stomach that produces digestive enzymes and the hormones insulin and glucagon, which together regulate glucose levels in the blood. Full medical glossary
A glandular organ that secretes digestive enzymes and hormones. Full medical glossary
Energy in the form of waves or particles, including radio waves, X-rays and gamma rays. Full medical glossary
the organ or the body where food is stored and broken down Full medical glossary
Essential substances that cannot be produced by the body and so must be acquired from the diet. Full medical glossary
A type of electromagnetic radiation used to produce images of the body. Full medical glossary