Can Obesity Escalate Bone And Muscle Loss?

women legs with overweightA new study has identified a syndrome referred to as osteoarcopenic obesity that links the deterioration of bone density and muscle mass with obesity. The study was conducted by researchers at Florida State University and published in Ageing Research Reviews. Researchers say the syndrome explains how many obese people experience a triad of problems that place them at a higher risk for falling and breaking bones.

Jasminka Ilich-Ernst, Hazel Stiebeling Professor of Nutrition at Florida State began a few years ago looking at the connection between bone, muscle and fat mass. She realized that most scientists were examining bone issues without taking into consideration muscle mass and strength, let alone fat tissue. She studied files for 200 women who participated in previous studies where she measured their bone density, muscle mass and fat tissue for different reasons. She found that one-third had more than 30 percent fat tissue, plus declining bone density and muscle mass.

It used to be the thinking that the heavier you were the better your bones would be because the bones were supporting more weight, Ilich-Ernst said. But thats only true to a certain extent. Many factors impact bones. This developed as a logical way to move forward to look at everything together and not just focus on one area.

This would be a triad problem for older women, she continued. They cannot perform as well. 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 muscle mass and bone density with age, but substantial gain in body fat can make the muscle and bone problems even worse. They have a higher risk of falling and breaking a bone or encountering other disabilities.

While the problem is most prevalent with older women, it could impact people of all ages and genders. Overall, Ilich-Ernst hopes the research reminds people to consider the damage that can be done to all parts of the body if they are overweight.

Obesity To Predict Lower Extremity Injury Risk

In a related recent study, obesity and musculoskeletal injuries are huge health problems in America, including the military. In the civilian setting these injuries can be very costly, but in the military the injuries can also slow down or stop personnel.

With the ultimate goal of preventing injuries by better understanding how obesity affects the risk for getting injured, Dr. Nathaniel S. Nye, MD recently conducted a retrospective review of electronic records of 79,868 United States Air Force personnel stratified by BMI normal, overweight and obese and AC low, medium and high-risk. The findings were used for a presentation called Does Abdominal Circumference Or Body Mass Index Better Predict Lower Extremity Injury Risk?

Next, Dr. Nye analyzed data over a seven-year period to identify incidence of new lower-extremity overuse. These included stress fractures, joint injuries, soft tissue injuries, and osteoarthritis. Cox proportional hazards regression was used to calculate risk of injury in obese and high-risk individuals.

The calculations showed a significant risk association between elevated BMI and AC related to all injury types. Those who were classified as obese were at a greater risk for developing lower extremity injuries. The conclusion was that using BMI and AC in a combined approach predicted injury risk better than either measure alone.

Nye says that a wealth of military health and fitness data is available due to organized, electronic documentation. He plans to use this data to learn more about other injury types such as back injuries and also find out if measures of core strength such as sit-ups and push-ups counts relate to injury risk. Ultimately, it may be possible to quantify each individuals risk for injury and prioritize preventive measures for each airman, soldier, sailor or athlete, Nye said.

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