Changes in thigh muscle volume predict bone mineral density response to lifestyle therapy in frail, obese older adults

Osteoporos Int. 2014 Feb;25(2):551-8. doi: 10.1007/s00198-013-2450-2. Epub 2013 Jul 27.


We studied the relationships among strength, muscle mass, and bone mineral density (BMD) with lifestyle change. Lifestyle therapy consisted of exercise, diet, and diet plus exercise. Diet was by caloric restriction to induce and maintain a weight loss of 10 % from baseline body weight. Exercise attenuated weight loss-induced muscle and bone losses. Exercise improved strength despite muscle loss in patients on diet and exercise. Changes in strength did not correlate with changes in BMD. However, changes in thigh muscle volume correlated with, and predicted changes in hip BMD.

Introduction: Losses of hip BMD and lean body mass are major complications of lifestyle therapy in frail, obese older adults; however, the contribution of mechanical strain loss from muscle loss is poorly defined. We determined the effect of changes in thigh muscle volume and muscle strength on BMD in frail, obese older adults undergoing lifestyle therapy aimed at intentional weight loss with or without exercise.

Methods: One hundred seven obese older adults were randomized to control, diet, exercise, and diet-exercise groups for 1 year. Thigh muscle volume was measured by magnetic resonance imaging, BMD by DXA, knee strength by dynamometry, total strength by one-repetition maximum (1-RM), and bone markers by immunoassay.

Results: Thigh muscle volume decreased in the diet group (-6.2 ± 4.8 %) and increased in the exercise group (2.7 ± 3.1 %), while it was not significantly different from the control in the diet-exercise group. Changes in hip BMD followed similar pattern as those in thigh muscle volume. Knee extension and flexion increased in the exercise group (23 ± 20 %; 25 ± 19 %) and diet-exercise group (20 ± 19 %; 20.6 ± 27 %) but were unchanged in the control and diet groups. Changes in thigh muscle volume correlated with changes in hip BMD (r = 0.55, P = <0.001) and were an independent predictor of changes in hip BMD (β = 0.12, P = 0.03) in the multiple regression analyses after accounting for demographic factors and changes in weight and physical activity. There were no correlations between BMD changes and knee strength, 1-RM, and sclerostin changes.

Conclusions: Changes in thigh muscle volume predict hip BMD changes in obese older patients undergoing lifestyle therapy. The effect of exercise in attenuating thigh muscle loss when added to diet may in part account for the reduction in weight loss-induced bone loss in the diet-exercise group.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Bone Density / physiology*
  • Caloric Restriction
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Exercise Therapy / methods
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly
  • Hip Joint / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / physiopathology
  • Life Style*
  • Male
  • Muscle Strength / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology
  • Obesity / pathology
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Thigh / pathology