More than 40 million Americans are said to be obese - and 58 million are reportedly overweight. It's a condition that can lead to many health complications: Type II diabetes, stroke and cardiac arrest - just to name a few.

Med-tech and pharmaceutical companies have launched a plethora of devices, drugs and surgeries for weight loss results. Whether it's a web-based solution such as Body Media's (Pittsburgh) SenseWear WMS which is an armband that displays real-time feedback to track nutrition intake and weight, or gastronomic bypass surgery; weight loss innovations are coming out fast and furious and are on the rise.

GE Healthcare Lunar (Madison, Wisconsin) is taking a slightly different approach in combating obesity - by clearly identifying the fat tissue causing the obesity. And the $17 billion unit of General Electric (Fairfield, Connecticut) is starting in a unique place - with the bones.

The Dual Energy X-ray (DXA) is a device the company is saying scans bone mineral density in patients, as well as provides information to enable licensed medical practitioners to simultaneously assess body composition and ascertain fat distribution in adults.

GE displayed the latest applications for the DXA at the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR, Washington) 29th annual meeting being held this week at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu.

"The [D]XA gives you so much more of an accurate reading than what you see on the bathroom scale," Jeff Franz, GE's Global Product manager told Medical Device Daily. "The DXA measures the fat content in relation to bone mass."

The device, which produces an image in seven to eight minutes, has been used on some fitness reality television shows such as ABC's The Biggest Loser and some football teams including the Green Bay Packers have also reported using it.

DXA works by measuring the regional and whole body bone mineral density, lean and fat tissue mass and calculating derivative values that can be displayed in user-defined statistical formats and trends with color.

The device, in conjunction with Lunar iDXA software, also gives physicians solid data for body composition measurements and high percentage color fat mapping. GE said that patients can easily follow the report, which is divided into three compartments: lean mass, total body tissue percent fat, and bone density.

The derivative values calculated with the Lunar Body Composition Software include bone mineral content area, soft tissue mass, regional soft tissue mass, total soft tissue mass, fat free mass, regional/total soft tissue mass ratio, android percent fat, Gynoid percent fat, Android/Gynoid ration (A/G ratio) and Body Mass Index (BMI).

But one of the biggest selling points for the FDA-cleared device is its ability to give an accurate pediatric bone mineral density assessment for children, according to the company.

The DXA systems allow physicians to measure a child's bone density, fat and lean tissue mass composition, by factoring in and trending and changes in the child's makeup.

"It's problematic to measure changes in a child's skeleton because their anatomy is changing over time," Franz said. "It's much easier with adults because their skeletons typically don't change unless there's some sort of extraneous circumstance. But the DXA will give physicians a reference point when screening children. It will measure how tall they are compared to their peers and it will give information so physicians can come to adequate conclusions."

Some of those conclusions could point out structural deformities in the skeleton which could point out potential diseases of the bone.

"There is a lot of interest in [DXA] right now," Franz said. "There are just a huge variety of ways that this device can be applied."

The company isn't touting DXA as a magic bullet to totally eradicate obesity, however. In fact Franz said if anything this gives patients the ability to see how to safely lose weight and that the actual weight loss will have to come from lifestyle changes.

"Unfortunately the only real thing you can do to change your body mass is to exercise and to diet," he said.

Lunar was formed in 1980 and was funded through a special grant from NASA that studied the affects of bone mass with zero gravity. The company was purchased back in 2000 by GE.

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