The Reliance GP Blog

Measuring up the fat-Riverside Body Scan celebrates its 1st birthday
Rod Beckwith April 14, 2016

Measuring up the fat-Riverside Body Scan celebrates its 1st birthday


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Jenny (not her real name), a 45 year old mum & part-time bookkeeper, has been told by her GP that she needs to lose weight. Her mum has diabetes and her dad died of bowel cancer. The scales (and her clothing sizes) tell her that things have been sliding for a while. Why does Jenny need to worry? What is concerning Jenny’s GP?

Unless you live under a rock, you know that smoking is the number one preventable cause of cancer in women. But what is number two? Most women are surprised to learn that obesity is the number two preventable cause of cancer in women. A huge study, performed in 2007 in the United States, determined that about 7% of new cancers in women (and 4% in men) are due to obesity. To put it bluntly, every year in the USA, 50,500 women develop cancer, due to obesity. The contribution to cancer development by obesity is as high as 40% for some cancers, particularly endometrial cancer and esophageal adenocarcinoma. And, before you get too carried away arguing that the USA is a very different place to Australia, let’s have a look at the statistics. In 2013, 33% of Americans were obese, while in Australia, the number wasn’t far behind at 29%. In fact, 70% of Australian men and 60% of Australian women are overweight or obese. The number of obese people in Australia has grown by 81% since 1980!

Jenny’s GP tells her that she has a few choices when it comes to approaching weight loss. Will she barrel into exercise, hitting the gym or group training sessions five times a week? Will she swap meals for weight loss shakes? Will she cut down on the blocks of chocolate that sneak into the shopping trolley? Is it diet or exercise that will help her the most? While there are many roads to success, Jenny’s GP is most interested in how her progress will be measured.

Measuring progress in weight loss is tricky. The scales aren’t always your best friend. If it has been a while since you have exercised, and you hit the gym with sweaty enthusiasm, it’s likely that you’ll put on muscle as well as losing fat. That can be confusing and disheartening, since the number on the scales may stay the same, or even go up!

Jenny’s best friend, Mandy, has recently met this hurdle, on her weight-loss journey. The first eight weeks for Mandy were heart breaking. She actually put on 2 kg, in spite of her thrice weekly murder-by-burpie gym sessions. Did something go wrong? Mandy, depressed by the numbers on the scales gave up, not realising that during that eight weeks she had actually lost fat– a total of 1 kg, but also put on 3 kg of muscle mass! Without knowing these numbers, Mandy quit. After all, what’s the point of trashing yourself in the gym and having nothing to show for it?

On advice from her GP, Jenny decided to have an Advanced DEXA Body Composition Scan before starting her program. The scan results showed that she was in pretty bad shape. Although Jenny was only moderately overweight on the scales, her body composition was very poor. That is, she was “all fat, and no muscle”. Her body fat percentage was pushing into the mid-40% range (should be 25-30% or less), and her fat mass index (ideally 5.0-9.0 for a woman) was 13.6– in the Obese Class I range.

But the worst thing of all, for Jenny, and of greatest concern to her GP, was where the fat was stored. Jenny had a dangerous 1.2 kg of organ-hugging abdominal visceral adipose tissue (VAT). Visceral Adipose Tissue is the pathological fat, deep inside your middle, that promotes diabetes, cancer, heart disease and ultimately, untimely death or disability. This fat cannot be detected by scales (which measure your total weight, whether it is muscle or fat, and cannot identify where in the body the weight is), nor can it be detected by calipers (which only measure the fat under the skin). Jenny and her GP are understandably concerned, and the GP advises her to seek the wisdom of Accredited Practicing Dietitian, Nicole Saliba.

Dietitian Nicole tells Jenny that, while the amount of fat she has around her organs is worrying, there is a lot she can do. Visceral fat is quite responsive to changes in diet and exercise. High carbohydrate diets, particularly those stacked with high glycaemic foods and added sugars, high saturated and trans fat intakes, and excessive alcohol intakes, are known contributors. Nicole sets out a plan for Jenny, including changes to the mix and amounts of foods she consumes, and she encourages Jenny to get out and exercise regularly (but don’t forget “you can’t out-exercise a bad diet”).

Jenny returns for her twelve week progress scan and discovers that she has reduced her visceral adipose tissue from 1.2 kg down to 480 g! In addition, she has dropped her Fat Mass Index from 13.6 (Obese Class I), down to 11.2. She still has some way to go to reach the normal female fat mass index range of 5-9, but she is well on her way.

How can you, like Jenny, find out how much visceral adipose tissue you have? An Advanced DEXA Body Composition Scan is the method of choice for you to determine your visceral adipose tissue. The scan is quick (less than 10 minutes) and inexpensive (less than $100), and besides giving you a quantification of your VAT, you also find out how much muscle you have, how much fat you have, where in your body the muscle and fat is, what your total body bone density is (important for those with a family history of osteoporosis), and even what your resting metabolic rate is (how many calories your body burns, at rest). Reliance GP Superclinic is excited to announce that we have the only DEXA service on the Central Coast that can perform Advanced Body Composition Scans with VAT measurement.

Jenny’s GP is very pleased with her, and Jenny is keen to keep making progress. Now that she has lost a bit of weight, and improved her fitness, she has realised that losing weight on the scales isn’t really the point. She feels amazing! Her energy levels are up, she bounces out of bed in the morning, and she no longer hits that mid-afternoon brain-drain. She is now shopping for clothes 2 sizes smaller, and friends are commenting on her healthy glow. Her next progress scan is in eight weeks, and she’s looking forward to seeing more healthy changes.

So what is a DEXA scan?

Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry, also known as DEXA, is the preferred technique for measuring Total Body Composition analysis (TBC) and bone mineral density (BMD). This is because a DEXA scanner uses an enhanced form of low dose x-ray technology (less radiation than you get from half a day of background radiation) to detect bone loss or changes in the body’s soft tissue composition (muscle mass and fat mass). The machine produces two precisely calibrated energy beams, each with differing energy levels. The amount of attenuation of the X-ray beams by the bone, fat and muscles is measured for each beam. The result is a three component scan that measures fat, lean muscle and bone density with 99% accuracy. DEXA is the preferred method because it is cheap (less than $100), fast (less than 10 minutes), very safe (very little radiation), and the results are available, immediately. The scanner at Riverside BodyScan is the only scanner on the Central Coast that can give you an advanced breakdown of your body composition, including your visceral adipose tissue.

Riverside Body Scan turns 1!

Celebrating it’s first year anniversary this week, DEXA has scanned over 1000 clients coming in for scans in the first year. With the Central Coast community being health and fitness minded, many people have been coming in (sometimes even groups of people from boot camps) who have been keen to measure their progress in weight loss or muscle gain.

Riverside Body Scan Director, Angus Steventon, was the first one to test out the scanner. The scan told him that he had a great body fat percentage… for a middle aged woman! At only 38, After a year, he has reduced his fat to the healthy range (losing 50% of it!) and gained over 3kg of lean mass (muscles) in the process. Fantastic results.

To find out more and to book in for your scan today please contact Riverside Medical Imaging on 02 4323 9200 or visit

By Angus Steventon- Director and Chiropractor


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