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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

Up muscle mass and lower risk of death

Posted: 17 Mar 2014 09:30 PM PDT

Building muscle could help increase longevity in older adults.

The more muscle mass you have, the healthier you are, and new evidence indicates said mass could also help you live longer!

A new study out of UCLA builds on previous research led by Dr. Preethi Srikanthan, an assistant clinical professor in the endocrinology division at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Her past findings indicated that building muscle mass is important in reducing metabolic risk.

"As there is no gold-standard measure of body composition, several studies have addressed this question using different measurement techniques and have obtained different results," Srikanthan said. "So many studies on the mortality impact of obesity focus on Body Mass Index. Our study indicates that clinicians need to be focusing on ways to improve body composition, rather than on BMI alone, when counselling older adults on preventative health behaviours."

Researchers analysed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III, which occurred between 1988 and 1994. They focused on a group of 3,659 individuals including men 55 or older and women 65 or older at the time of the survey. The team determined how many of these people passed from natural causes based on a 2004 follow-up study.

Bioelectrical impedance, a process where an electrical current runs through the body, was used to examine subjects' body composition. The current passes through muscle much more easily than fat thanks to the former's water content. This allowed researchers to determine muscle mass index in relation to height, and how said index linked to premature death increase.

The result? "The greater your muscle mass, the lower your risk of death," said study co-author Dr. Arun Karlamangla, an associate professor in the geriatrics division at the Geffen School. "Thus, rather than worrying about weight or body mass index, we should be trying to maximise and maintain muscle mass."

Study limitations were noted, however. For example, a definitive "cause-and-effect" relationship between muscle mass and longevity using cohort study such as NHANES III is a bit challenging.

"Despite these limitations, this study establishes the independent survival prediction ability of muscle mass as measured by bioelectrical impedance in older adults, using data from a large, nationally representative cohort," Srikanthan and Karlamangla write, noting that BMI's link to premature death in older adults is inconclusive. "We conclude that measurement of muscle mass relative to body height should be added to the toolbox of clinicians caring for older adults. Future research should determine the type and duration of exercise interventions that improve muscle mass and potentially increase survival in (healthy), older adults."

The study was published in the American Journal of Medicine. – AFP Relaxnews


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