A new study has found that the dangerous combination of weak muscle and abdominal fat can lead to a significant loss of gait speed in older people.
The results of the study were published in the journal “Age and Aging”.
The study was conducted by researchers from the Federal University of Sao Carlos (UFSCar) in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil, in collaboration with colleagues from University College London (UCL) in the United Kingdom.
A slower gait is a natural result of the aging process, but mobility problems can occur if walking speed drops sharply.
Daily activities such as crossing the street before traffic lights change become increasingly difficult and there may be an increased risk of falling and a gradual loss of independence if the condition worsens.
“Our comparative analysis showed a loss of gait speed that occurs mainly when abdominal fat and weak muscles were associated. Gait speed did not decrease as abruptly in older people who had only abdominal fat or only weak muscles.”
; said Tiago da Silva Alexandre, a professor in the Department of Gerontology, Center for Biological and Health Sciences, Federal University of Sao Carlos (CCBS-UFSCar), and the latest author of an article on the study.
The study analyzed data from 2,294 individuals aged 60 and over who participated in the English Longitudinal Study on Aging (ELSA). He was supported by FAPESP through a Young Investigator Grant and a PhD scholarship.
Participants were divided into four groups based on their ELSA data for speed of gait and muscle weakness (dinapenia): neither dinapenic nor obese abdominals, only obese abdominals, only dynapenic, and both dinapenic and obese abdominals.
None of the participants had any problems with mobility or gait speed when the measurement began. The speed of gait decreased most in those with abdominal obesity and dinapenia over the following eight years of monitoring.
According to Roberta de Oliveira Maximo, PhD student in UFSCar’s Graduate Program in Physiotherapy and first author of the article, the basic gait speed for people in this age group with no mobility restrictions was defined as 0.8 m / s (or 2.88 km / h).
“In participants with abdominal obesity and muscle weakness, we observed a loss of 0.15 m / s over the eight-year period. At this rate there may come a time when they can’t cross the street in the time allowed by the traffic lights.,” She She said.
Another study published in 2017 and based on data from a different epidemiological survey showed that 97.8 percent of a sample of elderly people in the city of Sao Paulo were unable to walk fast enough to cross the street while the pedestrian signal it was green.
Called SABE and conducted by the School of Public Health (FSP-USP) of the University of Sao Paulo, the study did not analyze the correlations between abdominal fat, weak muscles and speed of gait.
UFSCar researchers noted that an accumulation of abdominal fat activates an intense inflammatory cascade, which consumes muscle mass and reduces strength.
“Hence the concept of dinapenic abdominal obesity, which we have been studying in our research group for several years,” Alexandre told the FAPESP Agency.
“In previous studies, we have found a correlation between these traits, which are very common in the population, and an increased risk of falls, alterations in the metabolism of lipids, carbohydrates, glucose and cholesterol, incapacity and even death. But this is the first study. to associate them with mobility “, added Alexandre.
Abdominal obesity was defined as a waist circumference greater than 102cm for men and 88cm for women. Dynapenia was defined as a grip strength of less than 26 kg for men and 16 kg for women.
Describing in detail the association between fat accumulation, muscle weakness and loss of mobility, Alexandre said that a decrease in subcutaneous fat and an increase in abdominal fat are normal with increasing age.
“Abdominal fat is more common in men. In women, fat tends to accumulate around the thighs and hips, but more fat also accumulates in the belly after the menopausal hormone drop. That’s when the inflammatory cascade occurs. “, has explained.
“The accumulation of abdominal fat fuels inflammation, which consumes muscle mass and reduces muscle strength, while also compromising the neural control of the muscles. The result is constant loss of strength and accumulation of fat,” he added.
For the researchers, then, healthcare professionals should measure abdominal fat and muscle strength in clinics and hospitals to predict the loss of gait speed.
“The decline in gait speed is an important indicator. It suggests mobility problems, an increased risk of falls and potential disability in older people,” said Alexandre.
“Our goal in this study was to show the usefulness of this predictor for medical teams. A considerable number of older people have weak muscles and accumulated abdominal fat. Both can be corrected with exercise and diet,” he concluded. Alexandre.