Higher inflammatory marker levels in older persons: associations with 5-year change in muscle mass and muscle strength

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2009 Nov;64(11):1183-9. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glp097. Epub 2009 Jul 21.


Background: There is growing evidence that higher levels of inflammatory markers are associated with physical decline in older persons, possibly through the catabolic effects of inflammatory markers on muscle. The aim of this study was to investigate the association between serum levels of inflammatory markers and loss of muscle mass and strength in older persons.

Methods: Using data on 2,177 men and women in the Health, Aging, and Body Composition Study, we examined 5-year change in thigh muscle area estimated by computed tomography and grip and knee extensor strength in relation to serum levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), C-reactive protein, tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), and soluble receptors (measured in a subsample) at baseline.

Results: Higher levels of inflammatory markers were generally associated with greater 5-year decline in thigh muscle area. Most associations, with the exception of soluble receptors, were attenuated by adjustment for 5-year change in weight. Higher TNF-alpha and interleukin-6 soluble receptor levels remained associated with greater decline in grip strength in men. Analyses in a subgroup of weight-stable persons showed that higher levels of TNF-alpha and its soluble receptors were associated with 5-year decline in thigh muscle area and that higher levels of TNF-alpha were associated with decline in grip strength.

Conclusions: TNF-alpha and its soluble receptors showed the most consistent associations with decline in muscle mass and strength. The results suggest a weight-associated pathway for inflammation in sarcopenia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • C-Reactive Protein / analysis*
  • Female
  • Hand Strength
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-6 / blood*
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Muscle Strength*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology*
  • Receptors, Interleukin-6 / blood
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor, Type I / blood
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / blood*


  • Interleukin-6
  • Receptors, Interleukin-6
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor, Type I
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • C-Reactive Protein