Do I need body fat testing?

  • Written by Dr. Lanika Buchanan

We all know that the majority of Americans are overweight and are trying to lose those extra pounds. What hasn’t been clear is a reliable method of testing the actual percentage of body fat. Relying on height/weight scales don’t work since a very muscular person will show as obese and a person with low muscle mass can look normal even if their body fat percentage is dangerously high. Some bio-impedance scales attempt to show body fat but they are so dependent on hydration that they’re often inaccurate. Skin calipers or pinch testing differ depending on the user (and hurt). Underwater weighing is difficult and not specific. X-ray methods in the form of DEXA and CT are extremely expensive. So what is the best option if you want to know how much excess fat you have and how much is safe to lose?

Ultrasound! It’s the newest technology for accurately measuring body fat and body mass index or BMI. It is very safe, easy to use, extremely accurate and best of all inexpensive enough to repeat multiple times to visually see your progress. Athletes can use it to measure muscle mass increases. It can also be used as a motivator during an annual exam to track body mass changes due to aging. We lose muscle mass every year after age 40 even if we exercise and eat the same. We need to work even harder as we age to get results with exercise and sometimes even after working out consistently the scale will NOT change. This can be extremely frustrating. It may be that you’re gaining muscle. Muscle does weigh more than fat, right? Wouldn’t it be nice to know for sure if you are on the right track?

Everyone should know their body fat percentage and lean muscle mass; they should be memorized like your birth date and social security number. The good news is; knowledge is power. Once you know your percentages you can work efficiently to decrease the fat, increase the muscle or just keep the great body you’ve already got.

So how does it work? When ultrasound waves penetrate tissue, reflections occur at different tissue boundaries. For example, there are strong ultrasound reflections at fat-muscle and muscle-bone. Ultrasound allows us to detect the true fat thickness at each measurement point. By making measurements at multiple points on the body an accurate body fat percentage can be determined. Also, ultrasound measurements are not affected by hydration, exercise level, and caffeine intake, therefore providing consistent results.

Ultrasound may sound intimidating, but if you’ve ever heard an echo you’re a long way to understanding how ultrasound measures tissue thickness. You hear an echo when sound travels through air and reflects from a wall or mountain and then comes back to your ear. If you time how long it takes for you to hear the echo you can calculate how far away the reflecting object is. An ultrasound signal that travels through tissue and then records the reflected signal works similarly. From these signals we can determine not only excess body fat but also healthy fat, body water and relative risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Call Health Moves to get your ultrasound body fat testing for $55, if you are a patient it is discounted to $35. Consider getting it retested at least once per year to better pursue your goals.Dr. Buchanan is a Naturopathic Doctor and Licensed acupuncturist. Health Moves

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