Why Body Composition is So Important to Your Health in 2017

Editor's Note: This article is adopted from one written by Dr. Michael Mong, an ophthalmologist and obesity specialist who works with InBody devices. Dr. Mong is board certified in Ophthalmology and Obesity Medicine with a special interest in the prevention and reversal of pre-diabetes and diabetes, as well as Functional Medicine.


Now is the perfect time to emphasize the actual health risks and benefits associated with various body compositions, especially as we enter into 2017, with all those New Year's resolutions fresh on our minds.

 The limitations of using the BMI to guide clinical and fitness decisions have been documented and there are clear benefits of using the InBody570 to gain specific detailed insights into your personal body composition. Not having them may lead to critical errors in assumptions, understanding, and recommendations, which can hinder reaching a fitness goal. We all know that besides our appearance, there is a long list of diseases that are obviously associated with obesity, which seems on top of our minds this time of year. The list is long, but certainly includes heart disease, hypertension, cancer, joint problems, dementia, and diabetes.  

But what about other abnormalities of body composition, like having too little muscle mass -  so-called “skinny fat” - when there is both sarcopenia (lack of muscle) and the sometimes less obvious visceral fat that can collect around the middle even for people whose BMI is normal (18-25)? These are definite concerns that impact everyone, which is why a knowledge of your body composition is important for your health in 2017 and beyond.

A case study 

 "Vihaan" (not his real name) got some bad news, and it was not at all what he expected.  He knew that something was wrong because he was not feeling right and that he seemed to be much more tired than usual.  A successful entrepreneur, his company was taking off, and his young family was growing and doing well.  But he was not.  It seemed like all of a sudden he began to be thirsty - really thirsty.  And then, came the never ending trips to the men’s room. At 42, seemingly in good health and not at all “overweight”, he found out that he was diabetic, with a blood sugar of 265 mg/dl. Vihaan was shocked. He went to his ophthalmologist’s office for the required eye examination, began taking two diabetes medications, and started to get the blood sugar under control.  But he was not at all happy about it and really wanted to know if his eyes were affected by diabetes and what - if anything - he might do to get to the root of the problem.

The fear associated with newly diagnosed diabetes is great and is a golden opportunity to affect change in behavior. Thankfully, Vihaan had no evidence of diabetic retinopathy, the potentially blinding condition that destroys the circulation to the eye.  It is often the first sign of damage due to diabetes and reflects the changes that are happening throughout the body, especially in the kidney, heart, brain, and peripheral nerves.  Vihaan’s eyes were unharmed for the time being, but the question remained: Why was this active young man in the prime of his life diabetic?  His weight was normal for his height: that is, his BMI was less than 25.  

After a short discussion about the underlying drivers of diabetes, Vihaan was eager to learn more.  He was offered the opportunity to have a body composition analysis performed using the InBody 570 device.  In about three minutes the following print out was in the hands of both he and his physician.  Two significant things quickly became evident:

1.     Though his BMI was 24.6, his percent body fat was significantly elevated at 34%.  His BMI could be considered “great”, but he was metabolically in trouble.

2.     Vihaan’s muscle mass was significantly low in all four limbs and in his trunk as well. Here’s what was disguising Vihaan’s “normal” body weight and contributing to his high body fat percentage: low muscle mass.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and viewing and interacting with your data visually speaks volumes.

For Vihaan and his doctor, the data spoke volumes.  Now, they were in the realm of “show me” medicine, not just “tell me”.  Vihaan was now interacting with his own actionable data, generated in real time.

A conversation followed and the patient was now engaged in his own care with a plan to address both his severe lack of muscle and the obesity in his trunk.

A Happy Ending

Vihaan's story had a very happy ending, as he was able to follow a plan of higher protein and lower carbohydrate diet.  In less than a year, he was off all diabetes medication and has effectively reversed his diabetes. Though every case is different and certainly not every patient is likely to be able to reverse diabetes as Vihaan's did, addressing both his obesity and low levels of muscle mass worked powerfully together turn his situation around.

 So what might have been a more typical alternate scenario? This 42-year-old gentleman was placed on two diabetes medications and had he not taken charge of his diet and exercise, he would likely have been on some sort of medication for the remainder of his life.  Instead, through body composition analysis, he became empowered, and his unique individual metabolic profile was identified in mere minutes when he was most ready and willing to take action.  The clinical encounter had been leveraged; the fear of blindness may well have been his lever to achieve profound behavior change.  

Taking Action

As you stand at the threshold of a new year and think about your health and fitness goals, remember that relying on your BMI or your body weight alone can fool you.  Without a proper understanding of your personal body composition, you may just head off in the wrong direction or miss out on important opportunities to make major improvements.  

Visit us at Physicians Weight Loss Centers to get your free Body Composition Analysis on this state of the art equipment use this knowledge to your advantage in the coming weeks and months to help you live a healthier life. Your future you will thank you for it!

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