Whole-body electromyostimulation to fight sarcopenic obesity in community-dwelling older women at risk. Resultsof the randomized controlled FORMOsA-sarcopenic obesity study

Osteoporos Int. 2016 Nov;27(11):3261-3270. doi: 10.1007/s00198-016-3662-z. Epub 2016 Jun 12.


The effect of whole body-electromyostimulation in community-dwelling women ≥70 with sarcopenic obesity was heterogeneous, with high effects on muscle mass, moderate effects on functional parameters, and minor effects on fat mass. Further, we failed to determine a supportive effect of additional protein-enriched dietary supplementation in this albeit predominately well-nourished group.

Introduction: The aim of the study was to determine the effect of whole-body electromyostimulation (WB-EMS) on sarcopenic obesity (SO) in community-dwelling women more than 70 years with sarcopenic obesity.

Methods: Seventy-five community-dwelling women ≥70 years with SO were randomly allocated to either a WB-EMS-application with (WB-EMS &P; 24.9 ± 1.9 kg/m2) or without (WB-EMS; 25.2 ± 1.8 kg/m2) dietary supplementation (150 kcal/day, 56 % protein) or a non-training control group (CG; 24.7 ± 1.4 kg/m2). WB-EMS consisted of one weekly session of 20 min (85 Hz, 350 μs, 4 s of strain-4 s of rest) performed with moderate to high intensity. Primary study endpoint was the Sarcopenia Z-Score constituted by skeletal muscle mass index (SMI, as assessed by dual energy X-ray absorptiometry), grip strength, and gait speed, and secondary study endpoint was body fat (%).

Results: Sarcopenia Z-score comparably increases in the WB-EMS and the WB-EMS&P-group (p ≤ .046). Both groups differ significantly (p ≤ .001) from the CG which deteriorated significantly (p = .006). Although body fat changes were most pronounced in the WB-EMS (-0.9 ± 2.1; p = .125) and WB-EMS&P (-1.4 ± 2.5; p = .028), reductions did not statistically differ (p = .746) from the CG (-0.8 ± 2.7; p = .179). Looking behind the covariates, the most prominent changes were determined for SMI, with a significant increase in both EMS-groups (2.0-2.5 %; p ≤ .003) and a decrease in the CG (-1.2 ± 3.1 %; p = .050) with significant between-group differences (p = .001).

Conclusion: WB-EMS is a safe and attractive method for increasing muscle mass and functional capacity in this cohort of women 70+ with SO; however, the effect on body fat is minor. Protein-enriched supplements did not increase effects of WB-EMS alone.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02356016.

Keywords: Body fat; Community-dwelling older people; Sarcopenic obesity; Skeletal muscle mass; Whole-body electromyostimulation.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Body Composition
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Muscle Strength
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Sarcopenia / physiopathology
  • Sarcopenia / therapy*
  • Taiwan

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02356016