Physical disability and muscular strength in relation to obesity and different body composition indexes in a sample of healthy elderly women

E Zoico, V Di Francesco, J M Guralnik, G Mazzali, A Bortolani, S Guariento, G Sergi, O Bosello, M Zamboni
International Journal of Obesity and related Metabolic Disorders 2004, 28 (2): 234-41

OBJECTIVES: The aim of the present study was to test the association between muscular strength, functional limitations, body composition measurements and indexes of sarcopenia in a sample of community-dwelling, elderly women at the high end of the functional spectrum.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional.

SUBJECTS: In all, 167 women aged 67-78 y were selected from the general population in central Verona. A group of 120 premenopausal healthy women aged 20-50 y represented the young reference group.

MEASUREMENTS: Body weight, height, body mass index (BMI) and the presence of acute and chronic conditions were evaluated in each subject. Body composition was measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Physical functioning was assessed using a modified version of the Activities of Daily Living Scale. Dominant leg isometric strength was measured with a Spark Handheld Dynamometer.

RESULTS: Elderly women with BMI higher than 30 kg/m(2) and in the highest quintile of body fat percent showed a significantly higher prevalence of functional limitation. In our population study, about 40% of sarcopenic elderly women and 50% of elderly women with high body fat and normal muscle mass were functionally limited. The prevalence of functional limitation significantly increased in subjects with class II sarcopenia, defined according to the skeletal muscle mass index (SMI=skeletal muscle mass/body mass x 100). In logistic regression models, after adjusting for age and different chronic health conditions, subjects with BMI higher than 30 kg/m(2), in the highest quintile of body fat, or with high body fat and normal muscle mass or class II sarcopenia according to SMI, had a 3-4 times increased risk of functional limitations. Finally, isometric leg strength was significantly lower in subjects in the lowest quintile of relative muscle mass and in sarcopenic and sarcopenic obese women.

CONCLUSIONS: High body fat and high BMI values were associated with a greater probability of functional limitation in a population of elderly women at the high end of the functional spectrum. Among the different indexes of sarcopenia used in this study, only SMI predicted functional impairment and disability. Isometric leg strength was significantly lower in subjects with sarcopenia and sarcopenic obesity.

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