Posted on Jun 08, 2023, 8 p.m.
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, the level of fat within a person’s body muscle (muscle adipose) may indicate the likelihood of experiencing cognitive decline as they age; finding that 5-year increase in fat stored in the thigh muscle was a risk factor for cognitive decline and this risk was independent of total weight, other fat deposits, muscle characteristics, and other traditional dementia risk factors.
For this study muscle fat was assessed in 1,634 adults aged 69-79 years old, this was done at the beginning of the study and again at one year as well as at 6 years. Participants' cognitive function was also evaluated at the beginning of the study as well as at years 1, 3, 5, 8, and 10. Findings revealed that increases in muscle adipose from year one to six were associated with quicker and more cognitive decline over time, and this finding was similar for both White and Black sexes.
“Our data suggest that muscle adiposity plays a unique role in cognitive decline, distinct from that of other types of fat or other muscle characteristics,” says corresponding author Caterina Rosano, MD, MPH, of the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Public Health.“If that is the case, then the next step is to understand how muscle fat and the brain ‘talk’ to each other, and whether reducing muscle adiposity can also reduce dementia risk.”
Despite decades of research there still is no cure available for dementia, currently, the emphasis is shifting toward preventative lifestyle interventions. Current estimates are that the number of people affected by dementia could triple by 2050 reaching over 150 million people globally.
Myosteatosis can exist without any noticeable symptoms and is typically identified in those who are already ill and are undergoing medical treatment such as medical imaging for another condition. Myosteatosis has been linked to heart attacks and strokes as well as affecting cognition. The health risks associated with asymptomatic patients are largely unknown, this lack of knowledge suggests that more research is needed to fully understand the implications of myosteatosis on general health.
A more accurate understanding of body composition could be key to preventative healthcare, especially since those with identical BMI could have different levels of health risks and comorbidities. The implications could not be more clear that there is a growing need for routine measures of muscle adiposity in medical practices, these measures could potentially provide information on dementia risks to improve outcomes.
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