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We all know what is obesity, but only few people will probably able to tell what is sarcopenia. This condition is, however, one of the most common among elderly people. The term sarcopenia describes the age-related muscle loss. It is the condition behind the frail physic of an elderly person. People figure out the effects of sarcopenia when they see an elderly person trembling to walk a few steps due to the fear of falling down. Though sarcopenia is viewed as an inevitable consequence of getting old, researchers who focus on aging have suggested that this condition and its effects can be potentially reversed. Appropriate interventions, however, should be undertaken during the early stages of the condition’s development.
Aging is not the sole reason for sarcopenia
Sarcopenia is the term used to describe the age-related loss of muscle mass, strength and function and it is predominantly seen in the elderly.
The reason is that many other factors, not only physical inactivity, are associated with the development of this condition. Some of these factors include:
- Insufficient protein intake
- Hormonal changes like decreased serum testosterone and growth hormone levels
- Body’s resistance to insulin
- Presence of circulating proteins (cytokines) that initiate inflammation
Apart from these factors that are identified in the context of aging, certain diseases are also found to have a direct effect on the skeletal muscles, thus contributing to sarcopenia. Among them, the most important are diabetes and obesity.
How are obesity and sarcopenia related?
Human body mass broadly constitutes of fat and lean muscle tissues.
Functional disability and dependence, which are the results of sarcopenia, are expressed to a greater extent when obesity accompanies the aging process. A blended expression of these two disorders is termed ‘sarcopenic obesity’. Studies show abundant evidences for the relationship between obesity and sarcopenia. They are actually considered to reinforce each other.
To put the relationship between the two disorders in simple words, the following factors should be mentioned:
- Obese people tend to be physically inactive.
- They develop insulin resistance.
- They take imbalanced diet that, in most of the cases, is protein deficient.
- When they tend to lose weight, their probability of taking a protein rich diet is even more reduced leading to the depletion of muscle proteins.
- The accumulated adipose tissues in obese people stimulate inflammatory reactions, calling for even more muscle loss.
- Obese people have higher levels of free fatty acids which inhibit growth hormone and testosterone secretions, either directly or indirectly.
Researchers are yet to establish the exact mechanism underlying sarcopenic obesity. However they have proposed a strong causal relationship between obesity and sarcopenia.