Study links obesity to loss of bone and muscle mass

April 18, 2014


Obesity may be linked to loss of bone and muscle mass.

As people age, the risk of fragility fractures becomes a major health concern. Without proper prevention and treatment, these problems can hurt people's abilities to live independently.

Consultations with a health care provider can provide insight into some of the most well-known causes of bone fragility, such as menopause, nutrient deficiencies, physical inactivity, smoking, alcohol abuse, family history, race, medications and more. However, new research from Florida State University suggested that obesity may increase the likelihood of not just loss of bone mass, but also deterioration of muscle mass, as published in the journal Ageing Research Reviews.

'This would be a triad problem'
In her new study, professor of nutrition Jasminka Ilich-Ernst reviewed the health data collected from more than 200 women who participated in other studies in which they had to provide information about their bone density, muscle mass and fat mass. Results showed that one-third of these subjects had more than 30 percent fat tissue. Within this group, women also showed evidence that they were losing both bone and muscle.

"This would be a triad problem for older women," Ilich-Ernst said in a statement. "They cannot perform as well. They cannot walk as fast. They cannot walk the stairs well or stand up and sit down multiple times without being winded or in pain."

Although people tend to gain weight while losing muscle and bone as they age, the study author suggested that weight issues can exacerbate the problem.

The research turns previous assumptions on their head. Specifically, it was thought before that being heavy would be beneficial for the bones, but Ilich-Ernst asserted this may not be entirely true.

Her study also underscores the gravity of the obesity epidemic in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 35 percent of adults in the country are obese. Without proper treatment, this metabolic issue becomes a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, certain forms of cancer and other problems.

Physical activity is an important component of maintaining a healthy weight. The CDC noted that older adults need to engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity, aerobic exercise per week, as well as at least two days of muscle-strengthening drills. When it comes to aerobic activity, it is important to remember that not all of this time has to be spent at once. Instead, aerobic exercise can come in 10-minute intervals. A sports physician can help determine what physical regimens are age-appropriate.

Research & Education news & articles

More articles