Measuring human subjects in the BOD POD

University researchers who need to know about their human subjects’ body composition can now make use of the latest technology—the BOD POD. And the general public may soon be able to use it, too.

a patient sits in the BOD POD, talking to a physician

The BOD POD uses whole body densitometry to measure body composition, or the proportions of a person’s fat and fat-free mass.

The BOD POD, which is located in the Clinical Research Unit of the Institute for Clinical and Translational Science, is a new service of ICTS Bionutrition Services. Similar in principle to underwater weighing (but without the water), the BOD POD uses whole body densitometry to measure body composition, or the proportions of a person’s fat and fat-free mass, explains Cathy Chenard, UI dietitian and ICTS bionutrition manager.

Individuals are weighed on a very accurate scale and then sit inside the BOD POD wearing a swimsuit and swim cap while their body volume is measured using a patented air displacement process. Percent body fat is calculated from body density using standard formulas.

The equipment can be used to measure children, teens, and adults, including those who are disabled, elderly, and/or weighing up to 550 pounds. The BOD POD is being used to assess body composition changes of obese adults enrolled in a weight loss study. Another study is using the BOD POD to measure body composition of teens with type 1 diabetes.

The BOD POD service has previously been offered to the public on a limited basis, and Chenard says efforts are under way to make that service available again. For a fee, people would be able to call or email to make an appointment to be measured.

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“People are interested in their body composition,” Chenard notes. “When we first got the equipment, we opened it up to the public and we had quite a number of people who used it, even with very minimal advertising.

“Some people wanted to lose weight and they were interested in getting serial measurements so they could follow their body composition over time,” she adds. “We also had several bodybuilders who were bulking up for competition and wanted to measure their changes.”

Although Chenard’s office offers other ways to measure body composition—bioelectrical impedance analysis and even the old-fashioned skin fold measurement process—the BOD POD represents an improvement over these methods, and subjects do not need to be immersed in water.