Sarcopenic obesity: definition, cause and consequences

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2008 Nov;11(6):693-700. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e328312c37d.


Purpose of review: Older obese persons with decreased muscle mass or strength are at special risk for adverse outcomes. We discuss potential pathways to muscle impairment in obese individuals and the consequences that joint obesity and muscle impairment may have on health and disability. Tantamount to this discussion is whether low muscle mass or, rather, muscle weakness should be used for the definition.

Recent findings: Excess energy intake, physical inactivity, low-grade inflammation, insulin resistance and changes in hormonal milieu may lead to the development of so-called 'sarcopenic obesity'. It was originally believed that the culprit of age-related muscle weakness was a reduction in muscle mass, but it is now clear that changes in muscle composition and quality are predominant. We propose that the risk of adverse outcomes, such as functional limitation and mortality, is better estimated by considering jointly obesity and muscle strength rather than obesity and muscle mass and the term 'sarcopenic obesity' should be revisited.

Summary: Recognition of obese patients who have associated muscle problems is an essential goal for clinicians. Further research is needed to identify new target for prevention and cure of this important geriatric syndrome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology
  • Comorbidity
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Strength / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology*
  • Muscular Atrophy / epidemiology*
  • Muscular Atrophy / pathology
  • Obesity / classification
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / pathology
  • Risk Factors