DEXA scan helps people better understand their health

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DexaFit has two Chicagoland locations where you can find out how much fat, bone and muscle you have for $150 per scan. (WLS)

A medical device that gives people a clear picture of their health - and is trusted by doctors - is now available to the general public.

The device can also be a starting point in the fight against obesity.

A DEXA scan is a trusted way to measure bone density in osteoporosis patients, but also can show how your waistline measures up than a scale.

Fitness trainer Robbie Ventura counts on DEXA scans for the most accurate measure of his clients' progress.

"Ultimately, it's really opened up a component of measurement that we never had before, or that we didn't measure as well before," Ventura said.

Knowing your weight is one thing, but what does that number really mean?

For ABC7 reporter Tanja Babich, who is 5-feet-3-inches tall, the scan shows that she has 97 pounds of lean mass, which is pretty good.

DexaFit is a company with two Chicagoland locations where you can find out how much fat, bone and muscle you have for $150 per scan.

A common way to calculate fitness uses weight and height. It's called a Body Mass Index, or BMI, Babich's BMI puts her close to the overweight category. However, the DEXA scan paints a different picture.

"Your BMI would indicate that you're heading towards the abnormal range, you're heading toward overweight, because a BMI over 25 is overweight," said Dr. William Harper, of the University of Chicago Internal Medicine Department, who reviewed Babich's health stats. "And you're at 23.2. Uh oh, Tanja, we gotta worry, your BMI is too high! It's getting towards ... But wait a second. Now with this body composition assessment, I can say your body fat is in the 22nd percentile. You're better than 78 percent of the population. C'mon, that's awesome."

That is a relief for Babich, but now what does she do with the information now?

"Our goal here is to find out what your physical make-up is and how, for you, to best use that information to take it to the next level," said Peter Fisher, of DexaFit.

That means diet and exercise. Fisher said another scan can be done in three to six months from now to measure Babich's progress. But is that really necessary? Maybe, if you're pretty fit to start with and you want some fine-tuning.

"Sometimes their weight hasn't moved much. But they become muscular. They've lost a little bit of body fat and they can produce more power output," Venture said.

But for most of us it's probably not necessary.

"Don't spend $100 on this. Spend $2 on a tape measure and put it around your waist," Harper said.

The DEXA scan gave a lot of interesting information, that would be unknown otherwise, such as how strong bones are and how much visceral fat exists around organs, which is the dangerous kind of fat linked to heart disease.

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