Muscle fibre type composition in infant and adult populations and relationships with obesity

Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1997 Sep;21(9):796-801. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0800476.


Objectives: To investigate the fibre type composition of skeletal muscle in infants and young children and to compare the findings to an adult population. To relate the fibre type profile of skeletal muscle in adults to measures of adiposity.

Design: Cross-sectional studies of skeletal muscle fibre composition in infants and adults with measures of adiposity in the adults.

Subjects: 21 healthy infants and young children (age: 3-21 months) and 40 healthy adult Australian Caucasians (age: 26-62 y; BMI: 18-48 kg/m2).

Measurements: Skeletal muscle fibre type composition (by myosin ATPase method) and relative body fatness (BMI, waist circumference and waist/hip ratio (WHR)).

Results: Infants and young children had significantly lesser proportions of glycolytic Type 2b fibres (6.2 +/- 1.1%; range 0.3-18.9%) compared with adults (20.5 +/- 1.6%; range 4.9-36.0%) (p < 0.0001). The percentage of Type 2b fibres was directly related to BMI (r = 0.44, p = 0.02), waist circumference (r = 0.49, p = 0.009) and WHR (r = 0.44, p = 0.02) in adults. A significant, direct relationship was also found between the proportion of glycolytic Type 2b fibres and age in the adults (r = 0.45, p = 0.01).

Conclusion: Skeletal muscle fibre type composition is different in infants and adults and there is an age-dependent increase in Type 2b fibres over the lifespan. An increased proportion of glycolytic Type 2b fibres is associated with obesity in adults. Results support a gene-environment interaction on fibre type composition in human skeletal muscle.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Anthropometry
  • Biopsy
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Fibers, Fast-Twitch / pathology*
  • Muscle Fibers, Slow-Twitch / pathology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology*
  • Obesity / pathology*
  • Regression Analysis
  • White People