Obesity can amplify bone and muscle loss, researchers say

April 16, 2014
Doctoral student Julia Inglis and professor Jasminka Ilich-Ernst are pictured. Credit: Florida State Photography Services/Bill Lax

Florida State University researchers have identified a new syndrome called "osteosarcopenic obesity" that links the deterioration of bone density and muscle mass with obesity.

"It used to be the thinking that the heavier you were the better your bones would be because the bones were supporting more weight," said Jasminka Ilich-Ernst, the Hazel Stiebeling Professor of Nutrition at Florida State. "But, that's only true to a certain extent."

The syndrome, outlined in the May issue of Ageing Research Reviews, explains how many obese individuals experience a triad of problems that place 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, realizing that most scientists were examining bone issues without taking into consideration muscle mass and strength, let alone .

"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."

So, she went back and examined the files for 200 women who'd participated in previous studies where she'd 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 muscle mass (sarcopenia).

"This would be a triad problem for ," Ilich-Ernst said. "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."

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

"They have a higher risk of falling and breaking a bone or encountering other disabilities," she said.

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.

"Everything is connected," she said.

Explore further: Fat in organs and blood may increase risk of osteoporosis

Related Stories

Growth hormone increases bone formation in obese women

November 29, 2011

In a new study presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), growth hormone replacement for six months was found to increase bone formation in abdominally obese women.

Recommended for you

Now is the lightest you will weigh all year

September 28, 2016

As swimsuit season wanes and the holiday season edges closer, Americans everywhere should take a moment to enjoy the current state of their waistline. For the average person, the time just before the start of the holiday ...

Study reveals a biological link between stress and obesity

September 21, 2016

Metabolic and anxiety-related disorders both pose a significant healthcare burden, and are in the spotlight of contemporary research and therapeutic efforts. Although intuitively we assume that these two phenomena overlap, ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.