Age-related changes in total and regional fat distribution

Ageing Res Rev. 2009 Oct;8(4):339-48. doi: 10.1016/j.arr.2009.06.001. Epub 2009 Jul 1.


Aging is associated with progressive changes in total and regional fat distribution that have negative health consequences. Indeed, a preferential increase in abdominal fat, in particular visceral fat, combined with a decrease in lower body subcutaneous fat are commonly cited in the literature. These age-related changes in body composition can occur independent of changes in total adiposity, body weight or waist circumference, and represent a phenotype closely associated with increased morbidity and mortality risk. Tissues such as the heart, liver and skeletal muscle in the elderly have increased fat deposition, which increases risk for insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, aging is associated with increased fat content within bone marrow, which exposes the elderly to fracture risk beyond that associated with low bone mineral density alone. Many of the age-associated body compositional changes cannot be detected by simple anthropometric measures alone, and the influence of gender, race or ethnicity, and physical activity patterns on these changes is unclear. This review will explore some of these age-related changes in total and regional fat distribution. Consideration will also be given to the strengths and limitations associated with some of the anthropometric methodologies employed for assessing these changes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / physiology*
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Body Fat Distribution*
  • Body Weight*
  • Humans