Anthropometric assessment of 10-y changes in body composition in the elderly.
BACKGROUND: An increased central distribution of fat with advancing age is associated with chronic metabolic and cardiovascular abnormalities. Little is known about the magnitude or pattern of fat distribution and its association with healthy aging. OBJECTIVE: This study describes approximately 10-y changes in body composition at 11 anthropometric sites in elderly persons and the metabolic and physical activity factors associated with these changes. DESIGN: Skinfold thicknesses, girths, body fat by hydrodensitometry, physical activity by questionnaire, and metabolic variables were examined twice, 9.4 +/- 1.4 y apart, in 54 men and 75 women aged 60.4 +/- 7.8 y at baseline. RESULTS: Subcutaneous fat declined (-17.2%; P < 0.001), whereas total fat mass increased (7.2%; P < 0.05). Waist and hip circumference changes were the best anthropometric predictors of total fat mass change (r(2) = 0.40-0.65, P < 0.0001). Thigh girth change was more strongly associated with fat-free mass change (r(2) = 0.22, P < 0.01) than with fat mass change (r(2) = 0.07, P < 0.05) in women. An increase in physical activity was associated with an attenuation of thigh girth decline in men and women (F ratio = 5.13, P < 0.007). Traditional metabolic markers of visceral adiposity (triacylglycerol, glucose, and total cholesterol) were not significantly related to the change in waist circumference. CONCLUSIONS: Skinfold thicknesses cannot be used to assess changes in body fat mass because of age-related fat redistribution. Higher levels of physical activity can attenuate the decline in appendicular lean tissue expected over 10 y. Waist and thigh girths, rather than skinfold thicknesses, should be considered for use in longitudinal studies in the elderly because the changes in these girths capture increased abdominal adiposity and sarcopenia, respectively.
Hughes, VA; Roubenoff, R; Wood, M; Frontera, WR; Evans, WJ; Fiatarone Singh, MA
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