Tape measure vs. body scanner: study investigates relationship between abdominal volume and metabolic state

Abdominal fat in overweight patients is a key indicator for metabolic syndrome (MetS). MetSScan, a new health study by the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) in the Helmholtz Association, intends to find out whether metabolic state can be predicted more reliably using 3D scanners rather than traditional methods. The study, which is still recruiting participants, was launched in February 2016.

Being able to precisely determine the spread of abdominal fat is important in medicine. As part of the MetSScan study, Prof. Tobias Pischon’s team of researchers at the MDC want to find out whether 3D scans are better suited for this than the conventional method of taking waist and hip measurements. The team will collaborate with body scan specialist Human Solutions GmbH on the project, which is being funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy’s Central Innovation Programme for SMEs (ZIM).

Examiners Marie-Kristin Kusnierz and Elektra Polychronidou demonstrating part of the examination. Image: Carolin Adler

Bad news for anyone with a generous waistline – overweight patients often suffer from metabolic disorders such as elevated blood sugar and blood lipid levels or high blood pressure. The amount of body fat in the abdomen is of particular significance here: a larger waist circumference combined with the metabolic disorders mentioned above is known as metabolic syndrome, which is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease.

A 3D scan of the abdomen is likely to assess the spread of abdominal fat better than measuring the circumference of the waist alone. Within the new study, patients’ metabolic state and thus the components of metabolic syndrome are assessed on the basis of the volume of the abdomen. In particular, the MetSScan study also examines whether the abdominal volume values given by the 3D body scanner reflect the patient’s metabolic state better than conventional body measurements, such as waist and hip circumference.

Examiner Elektra Polychronidou in the 3D body scanner. Image: Carolin Adler

Besides the body scanner examination, the study also includes other non-invasive tests such as a bioelectrical impedance analysis to determine body fat and fat-free mass, blood pressure measurements, a lifestyle and medical history survey, and a blood sample. The one-off study program takes approximately two hours in total. The most important research findings will be shared with the participant. Particular attention is given to full protection of the data collected, which is why, in addition to other measures, the research data is given a randomly generated, multi-digit identification number and stored separately from the patient’s personal information.

Study participants aged 18 to 79 are recruited via public notice boards and newspaper advertisements; both normal-weight and overweight individuals are invited to take part. A period of approximately one year has been set aside to allow the study to reach the target number of participants (500 men and women).

If you are interested in taking part in the MetSScan study, please contact the study center of the Molecular Epidemiology Research Group on +49 (0)30 9406 4589 or metsscan@mdc-berlin.de.



Vera Glaßer
Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch
Head of Communications department (interim)
Tel: 030/94 06 - 2120