Show Menu


Does a DEXA body scan measure bone density?

empty bodyscan room

This is a question we hear frequently, and the short answer is “no” (but it also depends on your objectives). Specifically, if your primary reason for having the DEXA scan is low bone density or osteoporosis, then an appointment from Bodyscan is not the best option for you. Instead, if you’re worried about bone density you should seek a dedicated bone density test from your GP. Read on to find out why.

What is the difference between a DEXA body scan and a DEXA bone density scan?

When looking to get a scan, it’s important to know the difference between your available options. Do DEXA body scans and bone density scans do the same thing?

The biggest thing they have in common is that they are performed on the same machine, a DEXA scanner (incidentally, DEXA stands for duel-energy X-ray absorptiometry and works its magic by using two X-ray beams of different energy levels). However, the scans themselves are very different, in the time they take, your position on the table and the areas of the body that are assessed. A bone density test focuses on the bones in your lower back, hip and perhaps your femur and takes 45 minutes or so to get a detailed, granular look at your bones.

A DEXA body scan, on the other hand, scans your entire body in under four minutes and measures the total mass of your body fat, lean mass (muscle and organs) and bone. This type of DEXA scan means we can get an accurate look not just of how much fat and muscle you have, but also how it is spread throughout your body – your fat and muscle distribution.

Both types of scan produce their results by assessing the density of what is being scanned (a DEXA scanner is what’s known as a densitometer).

Our DEXA body composition scans do give a good indication of whether your bone density is in the normal range and if it’s high or low. But it’s essential to note that this is only an indication and NOT a definitive, diagnosable result. In other words, it’s not a result a doctor would make any firm decisions on.

As such, if your DEXA scan’s indication was particularly high or low we would advise you to see your GP or a bone specialist and they would likely refer you for a dedicated bone density scan, as described above.

Perhaps the best way to summarise the difference between DEXA body scans and bone density scans is this: A DEXA body scan will give you a good idea of your bone density, but a DEXA bone scan will tell you absolutely nothing about your body composition and how your fat and muscle is distributed.

Why is it good to know your bone density?

Bone density increases and then fall for all of us once we get to a certain age (about 35 for men and usually after menopause for women). The fall is much steeper for women and so older women are at higher risk of low bone density (osteopenia) and osteoporosis (weakened, brittle bones).

Interestingly, while high bone density is better than low bone density (in so far as you are less likely to break a bone if you fall or have an accident), extremely high bone density could indicate a bone condition. Again, if your DEXA body scan indicates this, we’ll recommend you see a specialist.

If you’d like to learn more about the differences between body scans and bone scans, take a look at our video.

Why get a DEXA scan?

When deciding between body scans and bone scans, think about your reason for getting one in the first place.

Is your primary reason for getting a scan to look at your body composition? If it is, then a Bodyscan DEXA scan is exactly what you need. It’s the best way to measure your body fat and can provide you with valuable information if you’re trying to get fitter. Every three to four months, a follow-up Progress scan can help you keep track of your progress, by accurately recording even very small changes in body fat. Progress scans also keep you accountable and provide motivation (or, importantly, provide irrefutable evidence that your nutrition and exercise plan is not working!)

And along with fat and muscle distribution and internal visceral (or ‘bad’) fat, you’ll get an indication of your bone density. This is very useful to know because without a scan you’ll have no idea if you have low bone density until you break a bone. We have advised many of our customers, even young men, who are generally at lowest risk of low bone density, to seek specialist medical attention based on the body scan’s bone density indication.

On the other hand, if you’re primary concern is low bone density and osteoporosis and have no interest in your body composition, you’ll need a dedicated bone scan. You can request a bone density scan from your GP or get one privately. Our host clinic in Marylebone, London Medical, performs these one day a week, and you can arrange them by calling 08000 483 330. For facilities local to you, Google “private DEXA bone scan”.

DEXA scans in London

If you’re interested in getting a DEXA scan so you can have an excellent awareness of your body composition, then get in touch with Bodyscan. Why not book an appointment today? We are based in Marylebone High Street and Cornhill near the Bank of England.