Accurate body composition measurement drives human performance

Dr. Wilson with DXA patient

Whether you’re a professional athlete or an ordinary person—body composition (how much muscle and fat you have and, importantly, how they’re distributed in your body) is key to human performance, which includes strength, power and agility.

That’s why a precise measurement is so essential, says Jacob Wilson, Ph.D. (in skeletal muscle physiology), and CEO and director of the Applied Science and Performance Institute, a research and performance facility in Tampa, Fla., that works with elite athletes as well as with the general population. “DXA1 by Hologic gives the highest resolution when it comes to body composition,” Dr. Wilson says, “so we’re confident that its measurement is correct.”

For his work with professional athletes, Dr. Wilson says the DXA system—which measures fat mass, bone mass and lean mass—sets an accurate baseline for where they are when they’re first scanned. Then, subsequent scans measure progress leading to improved performance.

For example, hockey players ideally want a lot of lean mass around the hip area, not only on the upper body. If the DXA scan shows the opposite, Dr. Wilson says that will affect their game. “The hips are powerful muscles for exploding and having high speed on the ice,” he says. Once armed with the scan results, Dr. Wilson can redesign an athlete’s exercise regimen to build mass and decrease body fat to optimize performance.

“DXA takes the guesswork out of what I need to do to help these athletes become the best they can be,” he says.

For everyday individuals, the DXA system’s benefits are equally important. The DXA scan will indicate whether a person has poor muscle function or is at risk of fracture due to low bone density, among other things. If it’s poor muscle function, for instance, Dr. Wilson says he’ll follow up by asking about lifestyle, diet and how active or sedentary they are. From there he’ll know how he can help that person not only reduce its negative impact, but prevent it from getting worse.

“For health or fitness professionals interested in helping people slow or even avoid these and other age-related conditions, DXA is crucial” he says.

“In science,” adds Dr. Wilson, whose extensive research has covered the cellular, molecular and whole-body changes in muscle size, strength and power in response to novel products, training and nutrition interventions, “we’re always trying to get better resolutions, always trying to better understand the human body.” Available data from massive studies that look at body composition in obese people and physically challenged people across age spans, irrespective of who’s creating body composition databases, he notes, is based largely on the scans Hologic has done. “That’s one of the biggest reasons to say Hologic is backed by science,” he adds.

For Dr. Wilson, himself a leading innovator in the field of human performance, Hologic is the leading innovator in measuring body composition, continually making improvements in terms of resolution, science and user-friendliness.

“Most companies move at a crawl,” he says. “Hologic is moving at light speed, and that’s very exciting.” The truth is, he adds, “we have a 21,000-square-foot performance facility here with all the technology in the world, yet virtually every time we analyze someone, we use the Hologic DXA. It’s an increasingly critical component of enhancing human performance.”

1. Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry, Applied Science and Performance Institute uses Horizon A DXA system.