Biomarkers shared by frailty and sarcopenia in older adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Ageing Res Rev. 2022 Jan:73:101530. doi: 10.1016/j.arr.2021.101530. Epub 2021 Nov 25.


Background: Physical frailty and sarcopenia show extensive clinical similarities. Whether biomarkers exist that are shared by the two conditions is presently unclear.

Methods: We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of cross-sectional and longitudinal studies that investigated the association of frailty and/or sarcopenia with biomarkers as a primary or secondary outcome in adults aged 60 years and older. Only studies published in English that defined frailty using a validated scale and/or questionnaire and diagnosed sarcopenia according to the presence of muscle atrophy plus dynapenia or low physical function were included. Studies were identified from a systematic search of MEDLINE and SCOPUS databases from inception through August 2020. The quality of reporting of each study was assessed by using the Quality Assessment Tool for Observational Cohort, Cross-Sectional and Case-Control studies of the National Institute of Health. A meta-analysis was conducted when at least three studies investigated the same biomarker in both frailty and sarcopenia. Pooled effect size was calculated based on standard mean differences and random-effect models. Sensitivity analysis was performed based on age and the setting where the study was conducted.

Results: Eighty studies (58 on frailty and 22 on sarcopenia) met the inclusion criteria and were included in the qualitative analysis. Studies on frailty included 33,160 community-dwellers, hospitalized, or institutionalized older adults (60-88 years) from 21 countries. Studies on sarcopenia involved 4904 community-living and institutionalized older adults (68-87.6 years) from 9 countries. Several metabolic, inflammatory, and hematologic markers were found to be shared between the two conditions. Albumin and hemoglobin were negatively associated with both frailty and sarcopenia. Interleukin 6 was associated with frailty and sarcopenia only in people aged < 75. Community-dwelling older adults with frailty and sarcopenia had higher levels of tumor necrosis factor alpha compared with their robust and non-sarcopenic counterparts.

Conclusions: A set of metabolic, hematologic, and inflammatory biomarkers was found to be shared by frailty and sarcopenia. These findings fill a knowledge gap in the quest of biomarkers for these conditions and provide a rationale for biomarker selection in studies on frailty and sarcopenia.

Keywords: Amino acids; Cytokines; Hematologic markers; Inflammation; Multivariate; Muscle.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomarkers
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Frail Elderly
  • Frailty* / diagnosis
  • Frailty* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Independent Living
  • Middle Aged
  • Sarcopenia* / diagnosis
  • Sarcopenia* / epidemiology


  • Biomarkers