We are not just made of one component, we have a variety of components and compartments, each one different than the other and with its own functions. In fact, the study of body composition allows us to measure the body’s core components: adipose tissue, minerals, protein, and body water and to compare the changes between them.
However, the structure certainly comes with the function and as we age, exercise or modify our diet, our structure changes, and therefore our condition evolves or worsens. Body composition analyses have played a major role in defining and linking the changes in the body components and their metabolic effect.
Previously, fat used to be considered an energy storage tissue but that changed considerably after studying the metabolic and inflammatory effects that it confers. In body composition, fat is measured as the percentage of body fat.
Percentage of body fat (PBF): The total mass of fat divided by total body mass, multiplied by 100; body fat includes essential body fat and storage body fat.
- Essential fat: the amount of fat that is needed for survival. Conversely, woman need more essential fat than men
- Reproduction: adipose tissue and fertility are associated with each other.
- Acts as an insulator, providing body heat.
- Protects internal organs.
- Storage fat: is the amount of adipose tissue that serves as an energy storage unit.
In addition, the distribution of body fat needs to be mentioned, as factors like age, sex, race, ethnicity, diet, genotype, physical activity, medication, and hormone levels play a major role in fat distribution.
|total body fat: 10-20%|
|essential fat: 3%|
|total body fat: 18-28%|
|essential fat: 12%|
Body composition analyzers can also measure visceral adipose tissue, which is hormonally active. In fact, visceral adipose tissue (VAT) possesses unique biochemical characteristics that are associated with pathological conditions in the human body.
Chronic conditions such as hypertension and cardiometabolic disease are associated to an increased level of visceral fat or adipose tissue. In addition, VAT’s location and pro-inflammatory conditions linked to an increased risk of liver disease.
On the other hand, subcutaneous fat is also measured in a bioelectrical impedance analyzer (BIA). This is the kind of “fat” that people can touch since it is directly underneath the skin, is tangible, and can be “seen”.
Chronic conditions influenced by VAT
Body composition analysis and in-depth comprehension of the different compartments have brought to light the association between VAT and chronic conditions. Consequently, visceral obesity phenotype is associated with medical disorders such as cardiovascular disease, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancer as well as metabolic syndrome.
VAT is commonly or interchangeably called central adiposity since the increased number of adipocytes surround the abdominal area and organs. In addition, central obesity is an important and independent predictor of metabolic syndrome, and it is also liked to a prolonged hospital stay with a higher prevalence of infection rates.
However, the VAT’s intricate pro-inflammatory and metabolic effects are defined by the release of different hormonal and bioactive molecules. Among the wide variety of molecules synthesized by VAT are adiponectin, TNF-a, leptin, IL-6, and resistin.
The studies performed with an aim to analyze VAT and their metabolic implications are varied. In addition, the research can use a wide variety of body composition analyzers depending on the study population or variables. Conversely, some of the methods used to analyze body composition do not reflect accurately relate to VAT, therefore the most cost-effective is considered bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA).
Recently, a study aimed to measure body composition, blood pressure and lifestyle modification found interesting results using BIA. This research was performed on 121 obese housewives, half of the intervened with dietary counseling, physical activity, self-monitoring behavior, and group activities, compared to the control group, intervened with group seminar on women’s health.
The study showed a significant correlation between the percentage of body fat and VAT with a decreased blood pressure measurement. Another important finding was that, after the 6-month period of maintenance and tracking of both groups, there was a reduced amount of VAT, and body fat. Even if the result were better in the intervened group, this study showed that tracking, monitoring, and providing general health information can improve metabolic risk factors in women.
I consider anthropometric measurements and their tracking basics in nutritional assessment. However, basic never means simple, it means that is essential and needs to be understood and explained. In fact, the clinical metabolic measurements commonly link to anthropometric measures. Therefore, medical nutritional treatment should be aimed to treat metabolic disturbances, bring back anthropometric homeostasis, and achieve the patient’s health goals. -Ana Paola Rodríguez Arciniega. Masters in clinical nutrition.
Obesity and overweight are commonly associated to proinflammatory states. In such cases, the release of proinflammatory markers can downregulate DNA expression of antioxidant enzymes and anti-inflammatory agents. Dietary approaches to imrpove DNA methylation include smoothies as a simple, yet powerful tool to improve DNA replication.
- 1/2 apple, cut with skin
- 1/2 banana
- 1 handful of kale or spinach
- 1 handful of broccoli
- 1/4 avocado
- 2 teaspoons spirulina powderAdd enough water to get the desired consistency and blend!
Shuster, A et al. “The clinical importance of visceral adiposity: a critical review of methods for visceral adipose tissue analysis.” The British journal of radiology vol. 85,1009 (2012): 1-10. doi:10.1259/bjr/38447238
Fazliana, Mansor, et al. “Effects of weight loss intervention on body composition and blood pressure among overweight and obese women: findings from the MyBFF@ home study.” BMC women’s health 18.1 (2018): 93.
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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, CTG*
Licensed in Texas & New Mexico