Muscle function and fat content in relation to sarcopenia, obesity and frailty of old age — An overview

Assaf Buch, Eli Carmeli, Lital Keinan Boker, Yonit Marcus, Gabi Shefer, Ofer Kis, Yitshal Berner, Naftali Stern

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

144 Scopus citations


Background and aim In western countries, the proportion of people over age 60 is increasing faster than any other group. This is linked to higher rates of obesity. Older age, co-morbidities and obesity are all associated with frailty syndrome. In the core of both frailty and sarcopenia there are dysfunction and deterioration of the muscle and the fat tissues. This overview interlinks the phenotypes presented in older adults such as sarcopenia and frailty—alone and with relation to obesity, muscle function and fat tissue accumulation. Recent findings Observational studies have well described the loss of muscle mass and strength through the years of adult life, both components of frailty and sarcopenia. They have shown that these changes are associated with dysmetabolism and functional deterioration, independent of common explanatory variables. In the metabolic mechanism core of this link, insulin resistance and higher ectopic fat accumulation may play a role. Basic experiments have partially validated this hypothesis. Whether there is a synergistic effect of obesity and frailty phenotype on morbidity risk is still questionable and currently under investigation; however, few cohort studies have shown that the frail–obese or sarcopenic–obese group have higher probability for metabolic complications. Summary Muscle mass loss and fat accumulation in the muscle in the elderly, with or without the presence of obesity, may explain some of the functional and metabolic defects shown in the frail, sarcopenic population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-32
Number of pages8
JournalExperimental Gerontology
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Fat mass
  • Frailty
  • Muscle function
  • Muscle mass
  • Obese frail
  • Sarcopenia
  • Sarcopenic obese


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