Body Composition in the Elderly

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Aging is associated with changes in body composition that have important consequences on health and physical function. Thus, studying body composition changes is of increasing interest in geriatric research, and measures are being developed to favourably influence body composition in old age, in addition to exercise and diet.

With advancing age, the lean components, such as total body water, skeletal muscle, organ mass, and bone mineral, tend to decrease, while total body fat increases and becomes redistributed more in the abdominal than in the peripheral adipose tissues [1-6] (Fig. 1). These changes seem to be associated primarily with a small positive imbalance between energy intake and expenditure due to an increasingly sedentary life style [7]. Some changes could depend on age-related endocrine and metabolic alterations, however [5, 8], and may occur relatively rapidly.

Increased body fat and centralised fat distribution have been shown to be associated in the elderly with risk factors for non-insulin-dependent diabetes and heart disease [9]. Bone mineral loss is a major risk factor for bone fractures, which are a significant cause of morbidity, institutionalization in nursing homes, and mortality among the elderly [10]. Sarcopenia, defined as a decrease in muscle mass and function, may be associated with impaired immunocompetence and physical functional status [11].

Total body water

Young subject

Fat free mass

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