Fat Thighs Linked to a Loss of Mobility in Old Age
An increase in thigh fat slows down older adults, a new study finds. Other research has shown that even young people may have health issues linked to excess thigh fat.
By Annie Hauser
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TUESDAY, Feb. 19, 2013 —An increase in thigh fat can lead to a loss of mobility in otherwise healthy older adults, researchers from Wake Forest University report in theAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
This is not the first study to correlate thigh fat to a loss of strength and mobility — a study published inGeriatrics & Gerontology International in 2010, for example, linked thigh fat to poor balance and mobility in older adults. But so far research has not associated thigh fat to the disastrous metabolic effects of belly fat, which include heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
In the new study, lead author Kristen Beavers, PhD, and her colleagues write that their findings suggest that preventing age-related declines in walking speed and mobility isn't just about preserving muscle mass, it's also about preventing fat gain.
The researchers used data from the National Institute on Aging's Health, Aging, and Body Composition study, a prospective cohort of several thousand adults in their seventies. They looked at how changes in fat and lean mass affected walking speed, and found that increasing thigh fat and decreasing thigh muscle were the most significant independent predictors of walking speed decline.
Adults who gained the most thigh fat and lost the most thigh muscle had the greatest risk of a clinically meaningful decline in walking speed.
Slow walking in older adults has previously been associated with to cognitive decline, disability, nursing home admission, and even death, Beavers wrote in the study. On the other hand, muscle strength in seniors is correlated with improved mental function, mobility, and longevity.
It's possible that body fat could impact mobility even at an early age.
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