Sarcopenia, the decline in body cell mass (BCM) and especially in muscle mass with age, is an important age-related cause of frailty and loss of independence in the elderly. Because the decline in BCM with age parallels a decline in GH secretion from young adulthood to old age, loss of GH secretion has been considered an important contributory cause of sarcopenia in the elderly. To test this hypothesis in a group of healthy postmenopausal women (n = 15; mean +/- SD age, 66.9 +/- 7.8 yr), 24-h GH concentrations and secretory kinetics were correlated with BCM (measured by whole body counting of 40K) and percent body fat (measured by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry or neutron inelastic scattering). Serum leptin levels were determined as a measure of adipocyte mass. Contrary to prediction, GH secretion was lower in women with higher BCM (r = 0.50; P < 0.05), whereas their mean fat mass was higher (r = 0.51, P < 0.05). These data indicate that sarcopenia in postmenopausal women is not associated with reduced GH secretion and is inversely correlated with fat mass. Serum leptin levels were inversely associated with GH secretion (r = -0.67; P < 0.006). Although a causal relationship has not been demonstrated, these data suggest that leptin could modulate GH secretion through its action on the aging hypothalamic-pituitary axis, or that GH regulates leptin secretion.