Prevalence of sarcopenia and predictors of skeletal muscle mass in nonobese women who are long-term users of estrogen-replacement therapy

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2003 May;58(5):M436-40. doi: 10.1093/gerona/58.5.m436.


Background: Sarcopenia refers to the loss of skeletal muscle mass with age. We have found a prevalence of sarcopenia of 22.6% in older postmenopausal women not receiving estrogen. The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of sarcopenia in a population of older, nonobese, community-dwelling women who had been long-term users of estrogen replacement therapy (ERT).

Methods: We measured appendicular skeletal muscle mass by dual x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) in 189 women aged 59 to 78 years old who had been using ERT for at least 2 years (mean +/- SD duration, 12.7 +/- 8.2 years). We defined sarcopenia as an adjusted appendicular skeletal muscle mass (ASM) (mass divided by height squared) more than 2 SDs below the mean for a young healthy reference population. Health and menopause history were obtained. Body mass index (BMI) was calculated, and physical activity and performance were measured using the Physical Activity Scale in the Elderly, the chair rise time, the 6-minute walk, and measures of lower extremity strength and power. Serum estrone, estradiol, testosterone, and sex hormone binding globulin were measured.

Results: The prevalence of sarcopenia in nonobese, community-dwelling women who were long-term ERT users was 23.8%. Skeletal muscle mass correlated significantly with BMI, age at the time of starting ERT, hand grip strength, lower extremity strength and power, and testosterone level, but not with estradiol level. In linear regression analysis, BMI, leg press strength, and testosterone level contributed to adjusted ASM, accounting for 48.7% of the variance (p <.001).

Conclusions: Sarcopenia is as common in nonobese women who are long-term ERT users as in community-dwelling women not using ERT, suggesting that ERT does not protect against the muscle loss of aging. BMI, strength, and testosterone level contributed to appendicular skeletal mass in women. These data suggest that interventions to target nutrition, strength training, and testosterone replacement should be further investigated for their role in preventing muscle loss with age.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Estriol / blood
  • Estrogen Replacement Therapy*
  • Female
  • Hand Strength
  • Humans
  • Menopause
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Regression Analysis
  • Testosterone / blood
  • Time Factors


  • Testosterone
  • Estriol