Body Composition Analysis – Why You Should Get One?

The increasing trend of obesity and being overweight is leading to the development of a number of metabolic disorders and chronic conditions in a new generation all over the world. It is leading to a rising prevalence of conditions like type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular conditions, which can have a great impact on the individual’s lifestyle and wellbeing. Body Composition Analysis is a method of assessing the amount of fat and body composition muscle mass an individual has in their body. This Body Composition measure allows them to make the required changes accordingly to attain healthy body weight and prevent the development of chronic conditions.

What is Body Composition?

Body Composition is a breakdown of the components that are present and their levels in an individual’s body. It is essentially the ratio of fats, proteins, water, and minerals present in the body and helps one to compare their body composition to an ideal composition to get an idea of their health levels. It can be calculated using body composition testing, which includes a number of analytical tests.

Why is Body Composition Important To Measure?

Body composition analysis tests allow the ratio of the different compartments of an individual’s body to be measured, which can then be compared to their ideal or required ratios. This comparison allows an individual to start an intervention which can be in the form of a diet change or regulation of exercise to allow them to reach their ideal levels. 

What Factors Affect The Body Composition?

Age Of The Individual

As an individual age, there is an increase in the percentage of their body fat along with their body weight due to a number of factors, one of which is the decreased level of exercise. This is also accompanied by a reduction in the total body protein levels due to the loss of muscle mass. Hence, the body composition scanning will show changes in the levels of fats and protein in an individual as they age.

The Gender

Females are generally found to have a greater level of fats in their bodies as compared to males. The difference in the fats levels in females and males, which is often shown by body composition analysis machines, is mainly due to the difference of hormones in both genders  – as estrogen in females makes it hard to burn fat as efficiently as males.

Ethnicity

Even though there have been mixed opinions and results regarding the differences in body composition in various ethnic groups and individuals from different backgrounds, however comparisons using Body Composition Analyser in a majority of studies have shown individuals from an African American background to have a greater level of mineral in their bones as compared to the other ethnic groups. (1)

Why Do You Need To Understand Your Weight In Terms Of Muscle And Fat?

Medical-Weight-Loss

An increase in BMI is associated with a number of chronic conditions, many of which are associated with morbidity and early mortality. The most common of these conditions are cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus type 2, and hypertension. Moreover, studies have shown that the distribution of fat in the body may play a greater role than the total body weight for the calculation of the risk of diseases. This makes the assessment of the percentage of body fat in an individual with the help of body fat analyzers essential for making specific changes in diet and lifestyle. (2)

Similar to fats, knowing the proteins levels of the body are very important, as these correspond closely with the volume of muscles in the body. The total protein mass in the body is a combination of the synthesis and degradation of proteins, which is found to be constant in an adult individual with fully developed skeletal muscles. However, these may undergo changes in the case of changes in hormone levels, diet, or exercise. Hence by assessing the protein levels in the body, the individual can assess the type of changes they may need to make in their body to maintain healthy musculature. (3)

A case where the body fats and proteins both may need to be assessed is cancer, where there is a general loss of the two components in the individual. Hence, regular assessment of body composition can even lead to early detection of conditions like cancer and cachexia. (4)

What Are The Benefits of Finding Out Body Composition?

A major advantage of finding out body composition is to evaluate all the deficiency of excesses of various components in the body – after which corresponding changes may be made by the individual.

The benefits corresponding to this include:

  • It allows individuals to know whether they are required to gain or lose weight according to their baseline.
  • Finding out the ratio of separate components allows the individual to focus on the abnormal component instead of making changes to all components. For example, if the percentage of fat is high only, the individual is directed towards fat loss instead of complete bodyweight loss.
  • An analysis of the body composition of the body allows the individual to find out their unique fitness goals and plan their workout routine accordingly to allow maximum benefit.
  • Finding out the calorie needs through body composition analysis also allows the individual to refer to a nutritionist and plan their diet accordingly, and have personalized nutrition goals.

How Do You Track Your Progress With Body Composition Outputs?

Tracking of body composition using different methods allows an individual to get an insight into how their body is changing and what interventions they may need to make to help their body reach health composition goals. A number of body composition analysis methods are available – some might be more appropriate for certain individuals than others. Different assessments have different validity and reliability, and while some may display the composition of the entire body together, the other may do this in segments – as seen in the segmental body composition analyzer.

Moreover, experts believe that it is beneficial for the majority to schedule body composition assessments at least 3 to 4 times a year, to be well aware of how the body is changing in real-time. However, this time may vary from person to person according to their goals.

What Are The Methods of Body Composition Analysis?

Skin Calipers

Skin Calipers help measure the thickness of the skin and are amongst the most used tools to calculate body composition in clinical settings. These may be used to measure the thickness of the skin over different body parts and may act as an effective tool to compare these measurements. (5)

The calculated thickness of skin may then be used to calculate the body density of the individual. This body density may then be used to calculate the percentage of fat inside the individual’s body. The two types of skin calipers which are most commonly used for this purpose include the Lange and Harpenden Skin Calipers.

Hydrostatic Weighing

Hydrostatic Weighing is also known as underwater weighing, is an effective assessment for the measurement of body composition. The density of the body is calculated by comparing the weight of the individual in air and in water. The difference between the two can then be used to calculate the percentage of fat present inside the body. While it may give an estimation of the level of components inside the body, it may not be used to assess the distribution of these. (6)

Air Displacement Plethysmography

Air Displacement Plethysmography is a replacement for those individuals who may not find it convenient to be submerged in water in the Hydrostatic Weighing method. This type of body composition analysis is based on the air that is displaced by the individual, which may then be used to calculate the body density and percentage of fat. (7)

Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry

Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry, which is also commonly known as DXA, is often used to measure the mineral mass of the bones in the body. This is facilitated by the difference in the absorption of x-rays belonging to different energies. A major advantage of this body composition analysis over the other is that it is very quick and may also be used for infants and children who may be up to the age of 4 years. This is because even though this method utilizes ionizing radiations, which are commonly not recommended for children, the level of this radiation is very low. (8)

MRI

Magnetic Imaging Resonance, which is also referred to as MRI in short, is used to estimate the volume of the adipose tissue present in the body. The way in which this works is that the electromagnetic radiation that is emitted by the MRI machine helps form images based on the level of energy that is absorbed and emitted by the body structures. This may be preferred over other methods of body composition analysis due to its regional estimation of body composition and high accuracy for the estimation of adipose tissue in the abdomen.

Bioelectric Impedance Analysis

As the name suggests, the bioelectric impedance analysis is a type of body composition analysis, which calculates the impedance of various body structures to electric current. It involves the placement of electrodes over the wrist and ankle of the individual, which allows them to act as a single cylinder. (9)

Visbody Body Composition Test

Visbody is a three-dimensional Scanner that was introduced by the company Visbody Tech and is popularly used for its high accuracy and quick results.

How does the Body Composition Test Works?

The 3D body scanner acts as the basic component of this body composition analysis machine and is able to extract millions of images of the individual and accompanying measurement in a short time of 10 seconds. These measurements are then used to reconstruct a three-dimensional avatar of the individual up to an accuracy of 2 mm.

Body Composition Analysis Results

Visbody helps generate nine different measurements of the circumference, nine analyses of the body posture of the individual, 15 body composition analysis details, along with the 3d model, which allows a detailed assessment of the various components of the body.

How To Improve Your Body Composition

Track Your Caloric Intake

Tracking the intake of calories is an effective way to control what goes in your body and be aware of how it may affect you. The general principle for control of calorie intake is to avoid the consumption of oversized portions of meals or downloading apps which help you estimate the calorie count of every meal you eat and plan out what kind of foods you may be eating.

Learn Your Body Composition Macro Goals

Macronutrients include fats, proteins, and carbohydrates and are responsible for providing energy to the body for various functions and maintenance of homeostasis. In order to maintain a healthy body, a combination of the three main macronutrients is essential and should be present in the everyday diet. While some suggest a greater composition of proteins and lesser composition of fats in the diet may help maintain a healthy body, the others suggest a high composition of fats and low composition of carbs in the diet is the key to a healthy body. Hence the macro goals may vary from person to person according to their specific needs. (10)

Exercise to Build Muscle Mass

Regular exercise offers a number of health benefits for an individual belonging to various ages and may become more important as individual ages. (11) Exercise does not only lead to an increase in muscle mass but also helps increase the metabolic rate of the body and increase the density of the bones. Studies have also shown maintenance of regular exercise to return back the muscle mass which may have been lost by the process of aging – hence keeping the individual fit and healthy. (12)

References:

  1. Duren DL, Sherwood RJ, Czerwinski SA, et al. Body composition methods: comparisons and interpretation. J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2008;2(6):1139-1146. doi:10.1177/193229680800200623
  2. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Military Nutrition Research; Marriott BM, Grumstrup-Scott J, editors. Body Composition and Physical Performance: Applications For the Military Services. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1990. 1, Introduction and Background. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK235943/
  3. Fiorotto ML, Sosa HA Jr, Davis TA. In vivo measurement of muscle protein synthesis rate using the flooding dose technique. Methods Mol Biol. 2012;798:245-264. doi:10.1007/978-1-61779-343-1_14
  4. Morley JE, Thomas DR, Wilson MM. Cachexia: pathophysiology and clinical relevance. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Apr;83(4):735-43. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/83.4.735. PMID: 16600922.
  5. Wang J, Thornton JC, Kolesnik S, Pierson RN Jr. Anthropometry in body composition. An overview. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2000 May;904:317-26. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2000.tb06474.x. PMID: 10865763.
  6. Borga M, West J, Bell JD, et al. Advanced body composition assessment: from body mass index to body composition profiling. J Investig Med. 2018;66(5):1-9. doi:10.1136/jim-2018-000722
  7. Noreen EE, Lemon PW. Reliability of air displacement plethysmography in a large, heterogeneous sample. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006 Aug;38(8):1505-9. doi: 10.1249/01.mss.0000228950.60097.01. PMID: 16888466.
  8. Lee SY, Gallagher D. Assessment methods in human body composition. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2008;11(5):566-572. doi:10.1097/MCO.0b013e32830b5f23
  9. Wells JC, Fewtrell MS. Measuring body composition. Arch Dis Child. 2006;91(7):612-617. doi:10.1136/adc.2005.085522
  10. Fodor JG, Helis E, Yazdekhasti N, Vohnout B. “Fishing” for the origins of the “Eskimos and heart disease” story: facts or wishful thinking? Can J Cardiol. 2014 Aug;30(8):864-8. doi: 10.1016/j.cjca.2014.04.007. Epub 2014 Apr 13. PMID: 25064579.
  11. Phillips SM, Winett RA. Uncomplicated resistance training and health-related outcomes: evidence for a public health mandate. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2010 Jul-Aug;9(4):208-13. doi: 10.1249/JSR.0b013e3181e7da73. PMID: 20622538; PMCID: PMC4086449.
  12. Phillips SM. Resistance exercise: good for more than just Grandma and Grandpa’s muscles. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2007 Dec;32(6):1198-205. doi: 10.1139/H07-129. PMID: 18059595.

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