The Mail on Sunday - You - - In this Issue - by Sarah Stacey

MY HUS­BAND DROPPED – by mis­take – a heavy box on my feet re­cently. ‘Dumbbells,’ Alex ex­plained in re­sponse to my wounded squawk. That mi­nor ‘do­mes­tic’ came about af­ter a joint ex­pe­di­tion to test out a DEXA (dual-en­ergy X-ray ab­sorp­tiom­e­try) body scan, which mea­sures your body com­po­si­tion. The re­port prin­ci­pally re­veals the amount and dis­tri­bu­tion of fat and lean mus­cle mass, by weight and as a per­cent­age of body com­po­si­tion, then rates the re­sult for your age, height and gen­der.

Although Alex proved to be fit for his 66 years, his arms were low on mus­cle. Af­ter the four-minute, non­in­va­sive, full-body scan – you lie on a couch in a hospi­tal gown while the scan­ner passes up and down – Bodyscan direc­tor Phil Chant printed out pages of ma­te­rial, in­clud­ing coloured maps of body com­po­si­tion, and talked us through them. He sug­gested that Alex in­cor­po­rate weights into his train­ing ses­sions – hence the dumbbells.

I was par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in find­ing out how much vis­ceral fat we had – that’s the dan­ger­ous, deeply stored fat that wraps it­self round your or­gans, in­clud­ing the heart, liver and kid­neys and may creep through your mus­cles. Even slim and ac­tive peo­ple can har­bour this in­vis­i­ble vil­lain.

DEXA is the most ac­cu­rate way of mea­sur­ing vis­ceral fat apart from an MRI scan – the gold stan­dard, but costly – or a CT scan, which in­volves vastly more ra­di­a­tion than DEXA and is also more ex­pen­sive. Ra­di­a­tion from a DEXA scan is the same, at 0.005mSv, as a den­tal x-ray. Bio­elec­tri­cal im­ped­ance anal­y­sis, a method of es­ti­mat­ing body com­po­si­tion and body fat, is markedly less ac­cu­rate. How­ever, DEXA be­came less ac­cu­rate at the high end of the obe­sity spec­trum in one study.

The good news was that our vis­ceral fat lev­els were low and our bone den­sity lev­els were ex­cel­lent. Phil em­pha­sises that ‘this is a good gen­eral in­di­ca­tion of bone health, rather than a de­fin­i­tive di­ag­nos­able as­sess­ment’. The body map showed that I carry a lit­tle ex­tra fat on my up­per body as old in­juries and a dodgy back have made it more dif­fi­cult for me to tar­get ex­er­cise above the waist. But, in gen­eral, we were both as­sessed as in very good shape for our ages.

Scru­ti­n­is­ing the Bodyscan re­sults with Phil was fas­ci­nat­ing, il­lu­mi­nat­ing and also sur­pris­ingly mo­ti­vat­ing. We both left de­ter­mined to im­prove the (mer­ci­fully few) weak ar­eas and main­tain the healthy ones. I’ve come to like air-box­ing – great stress re­lief! – so I’m now re­search­ing punch­ing balls for my Christ­mas list. Mean­while Alex is plan­ning a re­turn to Bodyscan to see if his arms have mus­cled up.

Con­tact Bodyscan on 020 3490 4171 or visit DEXA body scan plus vis­ceral fat es­ti­mate and per­sonal con­sul­ta­tion, £159; for two peo­ple, £258. Pack­ages avail­able.

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