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Prevalence of Sarcopenia and Sarcopenic Obesity Vary with Race/Ethnicity and Advancing Age

Sarcopenia is the natural age-associated loss of muscle mass/function, often occurring simultaneously with obesity, especially in older adults. Sarcopenia and obesity contribute to poor health outcomes and when occurring together as sarcopenic obesity (SO) can cause further health complications. Few studies have specifically considered these conditions across different racial/ethnic populations. This study examined the prevalence of sarcopenia and SO among U.S. adults by different age, sex, and racial/ethnic groups, using 1999-2004 data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and its racial/ethnic subpopulation groupings. Sarcopenia was defined as low appendicular lean mass (adjusted for Body Mass Index (BMI) of <0.789 kg/ m2 for males, <0.512 kg/m2 for females) and self-reported functional limitation. Obesity was defined as BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2 with SO defined as those meeting criteria for both sarcopenia and obesity. The analysis included 4367 adult subjects; for each race/ethnic subpopulation, sarcopenia prevalence increased with age. Sarcopenia prevalence varied by sex and race/ ethnic subpopulation: Hispanic (26.8% male, 27.2% female); Non-Hispanic (NH) White (15.5% male, 15.1% female); NH Black (8.6% male, 1.6% female); and Other (16.5% male, 23.2% female). Sarcopenic obesity also increased with age and varied by sex and race/ethnic subpopulation: Hispanic (8.57% male, 8.87% female); NH White (6.48% male, 8.06% female); NH Black (3.95% male, 1.12% female); and Other (4.46% male, 0.0% female). Increased awareness of variability in sarcopenia/SO may help develop effective screenings/ care management and interventions/public health policies to maintain functionality and reduce health disparities among an increasingly diverse U.S. older adult population.


Kristy Du, Scott Goates, Mary Beth Arensberg, Suzette Pereira and Trudy Gaillard

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