Factors associated with skeletal muscle mass, sarcopenia, and sarcopenic obesity in older adults: a multi-continent study

J Cachexia Sarcopenia Muscle. 2016 Jun;7(3):312-21. doi: 10.1002/jcsm.12076. Epub 2015 Oct 7.


Background: The aim of this study was to evaluate the factors associated with low skeletal muscle mass (SMM), sarcopenia, and sarcopenic obesity using nationally representative samples of people aged ≥65 years from diverse geographical regions of the world.

Methods: Data were available for 18 363 people aged ≥65 years who participated in the Collaborative Research on Ageing in Europe survey conducted in Finland, Poland, and Spain, and the World Health Organization Study on global AGEing and adult health survey conducted in China, Ghana, India, Mexico, Russia, and South Africa, between 2007 and 2012. A skeletal muscle mass index (SMI) was created to reflect SMM. SMM, SMI, and percent body fat (%BF) were calculated with specific indirect population formulas. These estimates were based on age, sex, weight, height, and race. Sarcopenia and sarcopenic obesity were defined with specific cut-offs.

Results: The prevalence of sarcopenia ranged from 12.6% (Poland) to 17.5% (India), and that of sarcopenic obesity ranged from 1.3% (India) to 11.0% (Spain). Higher %BF was associated with lower SMM in all countries, and with sarcopenia in five countries (p < 0.001). Compared to high levels of physical activity, low levels were related with higher odds for sarcopenia [OR 1.36 (95%CI 1.11-1.67)] and sarcopenic obesity [OR 1.80 (95%CI 1.23-2.64)] in the overall sample. Also, a dose-dependent association between higher numbers of chronic diseases and sarcopenic obesity was observed.

Conclusions: Physical activity and body composition changes such as high %BF are key factors for the prevention of sarcopenia syndrome.

Keywords: Older adults; Sarcopenia; Sarcopenic obesity; Skeletal muscle mass.