Obesity Can Up Bone and Muscle Loss in Older Women

Here’s yet another compelling reason to stick your diet if you’re 50+ and considerably overweight. Florida State University researchers have identified a new syndrome called "osteosarcopenic obesity" that links the deterioration of bone density and muscle mass with obesity.

A release from the university quotes Jasminka Ilich-Ernst, the Hazel Stiebeling Professor of Nutrition at Florida State, as saying, "This would be a triad problem for older women. They cannot perform as well. They cannot walk as fast. They cannot walk the stairs well or stand up and sit down multiple times without being winded or in pain . . . It used to be the thinking that the heavier you were the better your bones would be because the bones were supporting more weight. But, that's only true to a certain extent."

A paper on the syndrome, piblsihed in the May 2014 issue of Ageing Research Reviews, explains why many obese poeple experience a triad of problems that places them at a higher risk for falling and breaking bones.

Ilich-Ernst began looking at the connections between bone, muscle, and fat mass a few years ago when she realized that most scientists were examining bone issues without taking into consideration muscle mass and strength, let alone fat tissue.

"Many factors impact bones," she said. "This developed as a logical way to move forward to look at everything together and not just focus on one area."

She went back and examined the files for 200 women who had participated in previous studies in which she measured their bone density, muscle mass, and fat tissue for different reasons. About one-third had more than 30 percent fat tissue, plus declining bone density (osteopenia) and loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia).

People do tend to gain weight and lose both muscle mass and bone density with age, Ilich-Ernst acknowledged. But substantial gain in body fat can make the muscle and bone problems even worse.

Ilich-Ernst said the problem is most prevalent with older women, but that it could impact all ages and genders. Overall, she said she hopes the research reminds people to consider the damage that can be done to all parts of the body if they are overweight.

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