Aging, obesity, sarcopenia and the effect of diet and exercise intervention

Exp Gerontol. 2021 Nov;155:111561. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2021.111561. Epub 2021 Sep 23.


The number of adults 65 years and older is increasing worldwide and will represent the 20% of the population by 2030. Half of them will suffer from obesity. The decline in muscle mass and strength, known as sarcopenia, is very common among older adults with obesity (sarcopenic obesity). Sarcopenic obesity is strongly associated with frailty, cardiometabolic dysfunction, physical disability, and mortality. Increasing efforts have been hence made to identify effective strategies able to promote healthy aging and curb the obesity pandemic. Among these, lifestyle interventions consisting of diet and exercise protocols have been extensively explored. Importantly, diet-induced weight loss is associated with fat, muscle, and bone mass losses, and may further exacerbate age-related sarcopenia and frailty outcomes in older adults. Successful approaches to induce fat mass loss while preserving lean and bone mass are critical to reduce the aging- and obesity-related physical and metabolic complications and at the same time ameliorate frailty. In this review article, we discuss the most recent evidence on the age-related alterations in adipose tissue and muscle health and on the effect of calorie restriction and exercise approaches for older adults with obesity and sarcopenia, emphasizing the existing gaps in the literature that need further investigation.

Keywords: Adipose tissue; Diet; Elderly; Exercise; Frailty; Lifestyle interventions; Sarcopenia; Skeletal muscle.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Diet
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / pathology
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Sarcopenia* / pathology