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John Shepherd 3D body scan

The University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center is studying how body shape information can improve health and lengthen lives by using 3D optical scanners and advanced statistical modeling.

Principal investigator John Shepherd, an epidemiology researcher at the UH Cancer Center, leads a team for the Shape Up! Cohort Study funded by the National Institutes of Health. The study aims to develop tools and techniques to derive clinical health information from 3D body scanners.

Body shape scans can create avatars of the person. Researchers have found there is more impact on people when they view 3D images of themselves versus only knowing their weight. The modeling shows where weight came off, or where it could come off with further exercise/nutritional changes. It also shows detailed information of body changes, for example, where waists or thighs get smaller.

“Human body shape is an intuitive marker of health,” said Shepherd. “Emerging 3D optical scanners are safe, inexpensive and accessible. We envision that monitoring body shape when exercising or changing diet gives more useful feedback than change in weight on a scale, and will help people be more successful with their lifestyle changes, and living healthier and longer.”

Researchers will take full-body optical 3D scans at high spatial resolution of 720 adults and 720 kids. Participants will also be analyzed using other health and well-being measurement tools, including:

  • Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scans for body composition
  • Blood test for metabolic markers
  • Strength assessments
  • Questions regarding lifestyles and eating habits

“With this data, we can do some amazing things, including modeling body shape changes due to loss or gain of muscle and fat,” said Shepherd. “The findings from these studies will empower researchers, clinicians and consumers to measure and monitor their body shape and health.”

The study is a partnership with the University of Washington Computer Science Department, Pennington Biomedical Research Center and the University of California at San Francisco.

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