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Thigh Fat Slows Down Older Adults

A new study suggests that decline in walking speed may be linked with increased fat in thigh muscles and loss of muscle mass in the same area. According to lead author Kristen Beavers, PhD, gaining fat in and around the muscles comes with age and they figured that fat build-up in the leg muscle itself would be associated with a slow down in the speed of walking.

The research team studied a sample of more than 2,000 adults of both genders with a mean age of about 75 years. The walking speed was determined by measuring the time it would take for the participants to complete a 20-minute walk. The test was annually done over a period of four years. The body composition was evaluated as well through CT scan or computed tomography.

The findings of the study were published in advance and can be viewed online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The research team found that increased fat in and around the muscles of the thigh area and the decrease or loss of thigh muscles to be important independent predictors of slowed walking speed. According to Beavers, those who gained or lost the most thigh fats and muscles respectively, were at great risk of clinically significant decline in walking speed.

The burden of disability especially among older adults is becoming common and expensive and as such, the important priority of the public health research is to identify the contributory factors leading to functional decline and whether modifications can be made for improvements.  Beaver added that future studies on the findings should test whether a decrease in thigh fats or build-up of thigh muscles or both would show favorable outcome in walking speed and prolonged independence for older adults.



Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center (2013, February 18). Thigh fat may be to blame for older adults who slow down. ScienceDaily.



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