Dietary Fat Composition and Age-Related Muscle Loss

  • Ailsa A. WelchEmail author


Sarcopenia is the age-related loss of muscle mass and strength, and the consequences include the loss of physical function leading to frailty and disability and to an increased risk of falls and therefore fractures and also mortality. Although age-related muscle loss starts at the age of 30 years, the causes are not yet well established.

Fat could influence muscle mass through its integral association with muscle metabolism and influence on myocellular membrane composition or indirectly through its effects on inflammation and insulin resistance. However, the association between the fat composition of the diet and the skeletal muscle mass has not been previously investigated in a general population. Therefore, we investigated this in 2,689 female twins aged 18–79 years calculated using a Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ). Body composition was measured using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, and indexes of skeletal muscle mass, fat-free mass (FFM), and fat-free mass index (FFMI, weight/height2) were calculated according to quintile of dietary fat and also adjusted for covariates. Associations per quintile were compared with 10 years of age.

FFM and FFMI were significantly and positively associated with the P:S ratio and inversely associated with total fat, saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, and trans-fatty acids, as a percentage of energy. Comparisons of quintile associations versus those of 10 years of age ranged from 72 % for FFM for the P:S ratio to 95 % for total dietary fat.

Both dietary total fat load and fatty acid composition were associated with skeletal muscle mass. Although the scales of the associations were relatively small, they were significant after multivariate adjustment. These novel findings are suggestive that a fat profile that is already associated with CVD protection may also be beneficial for conservation of skeletal muscle mass.


Sarcopenia Age-related muscle loss Nutrition Dietary fat composition Saturated fatty acids Monounsaturated fatty acids Trans-fatty acids P:S ratio Mechanisms 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Nutrition, Norwich Medical SchoolUniversity of East AngliaNorwich, NorfolkUK

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