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Technology Tales: DEXA Scan, More than Bone Density

A DEXA (Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry) scan is well-known and highly regarded for its detailed assessments of bone health. Most of us have heard of it, and many have had one. But there’s far more to a scan than bone density, and it’s not just for people above a certain age.

An intriguing development in healthcare and technology, DEXA scans are emerging as a comprehensive evaluator of body composition. This promising transformation reflects a broader shift in healthcare towards more personalized, data-driven approaches, with DEXA scans at the forefront, offering detailed insight into our physical status at a relatively accessible cost – around $40, depending on location.

This intersection of affordability and advanced diagnostic capability marks a significant milestone in healthcare technology, making sophisticated and preventive health assessments more accessible to a broader audience.

I recently had one as part of a preventive health care plan and learned a lot in the process of it. The scan’s ability to show precise body fat measurements, lean muscle mass, and bone density opens new avenues for understanding and managing health.

This deep dive into the body’s composition provides a better picture of your health and the steps you can take to improve it. Here’s what it can do for you!

1. Body Fat Analysis

DEXA scans provide one of the most accurate body fat measurements, distinguishing between subcutaneous fat (under the skin) and visceral fat (around the organs).

This precise breakdown is vital for understanding health risks, as high levels of visceral fat are linked to chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.

Interestingly, even thin people in seemingly good shape can have high levels of visceral fat without knowing so. The key to reducing it? Resistance training.

2. Muscle Mass Distribution

Athletes and fitness lovers benefit from DEXA scans by accurately assessing lean muscle distribution across their bodies. This information is crucial for tailored training and nutrition plans to optimize performance and achieve specific fitness goals.

My scan showed that I’m significantly underweight and under-muscled. While the first one was no surprise, I thought I was doing pretty good on the second. Fortunately, working on the second should help with the first.

3. Monitoring Weight Loss

DEXA scans provide more than just a number on a scale. They allow for monitoring of how much fat is lost compared to muscle, offering a clearer picture of health improvements and the effectiveness of diet and exercise regimens.

4. Health Risk Assessment

The detailed composition analysis from scans helps assess risks associated with obesity and underweight conditions. By identifying fat distribution patterns and bone density, healthcare providers can better predict risks for metabolic syndromes, cardiovascular diseases, and other health issues.

5. Tracking Changes Over Time

DEXA scans are invaluable for tracking changes in body composition over time, whether for monitoring the impact of a new training program, the progression of a health condition, or the effectiveness of a treatment plan. This longitudinal analysis helps make informed decisions about lifestyle modifications and medical interventions.

I will probably do another in about six months after I’ve had time to improve my fitness routine. It’s the ultimate before-and-after but with the beauty of scientific details. Perfect for those who love to measure every milestone or for anyone curious if their new kale smoothie diet is actually doing anything.

6. Nutritional Assessment

Nutritionists and dietitians may use DEXA scans to tailor dietary plans. By understanding the proportions of fat, muscle, and bone, they can recommend nutrition plans that target specific body composition goals, such as increasing muscle mass or reducing body fat.

7. Research and Clinical Studies

In clinical research, DEXA scans contribute to studies on obesity, aging, pediatric growth, and chronic diseases. They provide accurate and repeatable measurements crucial for understanding health conditions and the impact of functional medicine and treatments on body composition.

8. Personal Health and Fitness Insights

Beyond professional athletes and patients, people interested in personal health also turn to DEXA scans for insights into their physical condition. This can motivate lifestyle changes, improve fitness planning, and enhance overall well-being. This is me to a T.

Beyond the pros, these scans are for anyone curious about their body’s secrets. It’s like getting a roadmap to a better you, one X-ray at a time.

The comprehensive data provided by my DEXA scan not only revealed unexpected aspects of my health but also catalyzed a significant shift in my approach to fitness.

Moving from a general focus on strength training to a more targeted emphasis on building muscle mass, I’m inspired to address the specific needs identified through my scan. I will emphasize increasing lower body muscle mass because that’s where it’s lowest.

My experience is just one of many examples highlighting the benefits of DEXA technology in personal health management – its ability to inform, motivate, and guide us toward healthier lifestyles.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What are your thoughts on the accessibility and affordability of DEXA scans? If you’ve undergone a body composition DEXA scan, how did the results shape your health or fitness strategy?

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I have a Tanita Inner Scan Body Composition Monitor. It is a set of scales which monitors BMI, bone density , muscle mass, visceral fat levels, weight, water content, calorie requirements etc. It might not be as comprehensive as the dexascan but it is wonderful for keeping an eye on your general health and have those benchmarks. It is not that expensive, under £100 in UK.

Last edited 1 month ago by Jeanieh

Sounds wonderful Jeanieh!

Susan Stevens

I have gotten a dexascan and I do have osteoporosis. BUT I thought the test only shows bone density. I will ask my doctor but I have never received any report regarding anything beyond bone density. Is it a different machine? a different test? or is the additional info omitted?


It’s the same machine, but if you’re just testing for osteoporosis they usually only scan the pelvic area and the lower part of the spine.


I asked to have one done in Switzerland last year as I’m over 60, my gynaecologist referred me. After the scan was examined I say a bone Consultant who told me what dietary changed to make, she said I wasn’t consuming enough calcium (I don’t eat cheese or drink milk) and recommended Skyr type yoghurt every day, plus mineral waters high in calcium salts. I was also prescribed a combination of Vit D3 drops and calcium tablets and told to do resistance exercises. I have the start of ostopenia in one hip, but this is not the same a osteoporosis.


Right Linda, it’s not the same. Ostopenia is the state before osteoporosis, so good for you that you’re taking control!


First time I’ve heard about it and don’t know how widely available it is in California. Sounds like a useful tool as long as you are able and willing to address the changes you need to make. I wonder how one would find out where and how to get this test.


Your primary care provider can order the test – it’s usually done to measure bone density as a routine test as you get older.


Very available in CA, but I really don’t understand all the test results I get – and the description by the DEXASCAN Reader told me only about bone density in hips & back.


Perhaps you only had it done for bone density and not the body composition?

Piotrowski Anita

My PC did order the test to evaluate bone density but there was no mention of fat and muscle percentages . Who else would be able to order this test to help guide nutritional and exercise recomendations ?


You do not need a doctor’s prescription to go through BodySpec for a body composition scan. The bone density evaluation does not scan your entire body, as they’re only interested in the pelvic region for bone loss.

Piotrowski Anita

I had a Dexa scan ordered by my PC but only results were related to osteoporosis. Who else would be able to order to evaluate muscle and fat content and make recommendations on diet and exercise ?


BodySpec is the Washington company. They have a company in San Francisco too, and L.A.


I have had three Dexa scans (2yrs apart) primarily to track bone density. Thats how I discovered i had Osteoporosis, took medication went to osteopenia, off meds now latest scans shows I have Osteoporosis again.


I personally prefer to rely on weight training than take medication for any bone loss.


Nancy, with big Pharma so involved I wonder about the tests. I have -3.10 bone loss, am petite, slender. Started on Alendronata a year and a half ago. Lots of side effects. Big Pharma tells us without it there is a 10-20% risk of fracture between age 80 and 90. I can’t remember the exact percentage and couldn’t find it online curiously.

Fromwhat I know, weight training doesn’t really help. I did it for decades.

Will talk to my doc in the fall about going off it.


Resistance training does help significantly, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense that it didn’t help you. I wonder what kind of training you did?


Tammi, thank you for your comment. Maybe I didn’t do it properly. Not everyone gets the same benefit from work outs.

I’ve changed my routine a bit recently. I’ve done yoga for over 25 years, pilates and other things. Not sure why this is happening, but my shoulders which I was told need replacing, are doing much better, more extension, less pain. I figured out in some odd way what docs, physical therapists couldn’t do for me. Trial and error maybe? Massage also helps enormously.

The Author

Dr. Tammi Kaeberlein is a scientist, working in the field of aging biology. She’s also the owner and author of Wander Healthy, a travel and lifestyle blog that provides practical tips, inspiration, and motivation to move more, so that you can adventure as far and as long as you want to.

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