Why Your "Life" Really Does Depend on Your Body Composition




Why Your "Life" Really Does Depend on Your Body Composition

By Lindgren Functional Medicine Staff *



We use a lot of tools in medicine to help guide intervention. Personal history, family history, blood tests, urine tests, toxicity screens, DNA sequencing – you name it. Medical diagnostics have come a long way. We have excellent metrics for guiding recommendations regarding wellness, but what about recommendations for lifespan? Health span? These are exciting topics for me personally. They obviously include nutrition, hormones, adequate supplementation, and exercise. But there’s more to measure and learn. So much more, it makes my head spin on most days.

Every one of us is somewhere different on the healthcare journey of life. I have patients in the throes of illness, at the end of their time here on planet Earth, true wellness biohackers, and everyone in between. Whether you consider yourself sick or well, living long and doing so with the best quality of life has to be on your radar, or you wouldn’t be here reading this now. Perhaps you’ve already balanced your hormones, optimize your diet, and exercise regularly, but I bet you haven’t even measured the very best predictor of lifespan and health span:

Your body composition.




Do you do that handheld impedance monitor at the gym? Or might you have a body composition scale at home that updates you every morning? You could have done the full-body water dunk tank, or your personal trainer used some calipers to measure the excess skin on the back of your arms. These tools are readily accessible, but each is riddled with bias. Without a postmortem analysis, anything we use to approximate what’s more than skin deep is subject to a certain amount of error. Still, the most accurate test currently available is a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry or ‘DEXA’ scan.

Historically, most people think about DEXA scans to evaluate bone density only, but they can tell us much more than that. DEXA gives us the most accurate picture of body composition. You lay on a table, the scanner slowly moves over you, and using low-powered X-rays, the DEXA scan effectively puts what it sees in your body into one of three categories: bone, fat, and everything else. From this, we can determine the following four essential pieces of information:


  • Total Body Fat
  • Bone Mineral Density (BMD)
  • Visceral Adipose Tissue (VAT)
  • Lean Mass Index


These numbers are compared against a population, typically stratified by age and gender. Boys and girls are different, and young people have more favorable body compositions than older ones. This translates into a wealth of information that helps guide hormone replacement, nutritional supplementation, and exercise recommendations. Before we get into the nuts and bolts of DEXA scanning, let’s address a few concerns and definitions first.




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Why Your "Life" Really Does Depend on Your Body Composition



With additional editing by Mark Zuleger-Thyss *





© 2024, Lindgren Functional Medicine

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