Wed, Jun 17, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Muscle mass key to life expectancy, study shows

Staff writer, with CNA

Skeletal muscle mass (SMM) — the density of a person’s muscles used to power the movement of their skeleton — is a key factor in determining their life expectancy, according to a study published on Monday by the National Health Research Institutes (NHRI).

Elderly people who have lower SMM measurements might face double the risk of death compared with their peers, the study said.

The study was conducted over a nine-year period, beginning in 1999. It tracked the SMM and body-mass index (BMI) measurements of 1,512 elderly people to determine if there was any correlation between the two figures and the risk of death. Results of the survey showed that elderly people with the highest BMI rating had the least risk of death, while underweight senior citizens faced the highest risk.

The study grouped the test subjects into four categories according to their BMI measurements. Those with a BMI less than 22 were classified as underweight; 22 to 24 as average; and 24 to 27 as overweight, while those with a BMI above 27 were categorized as obese.

The mortality rate for underweight elderly people was 6.72 percent, while the risk of death for the three other BMI categories ranged from 3.76 to 3.5 percent.

The institutes urged the public to stop fixating on BMI as an indicator of good health, adding that ideal SMM should be lower than 11.4kg per cubic meter for men and 8.6kg per cubic meter for women.

Exercising regularly is the best solution to prevent the onset of muscle mass loss, which commences at an annual rate of 1 to 2 percent after the age of 40 and accelerates after 50, the NHRI said.

It also recommended that elderly people eat ample amounts of protein from healthy food sources to help replenish dwindling muscle, adding that vegetables help reduce muscle inflammation.

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