Seniors seated during exercise program

Diabetes significantly increases the risk of sarcopenic obesity (SO), which is when a person has excessive fat tissue and sarcopenia (loss of muscle and strength that comes with aging), according to a new study.

The report examined the prevalence and predictors of SO in older adults with a history of diabetes, and evaluated the link between falls, frailty and disability in people with diabetes and SO. It was published on Tuesday in Cureus.

Researchers looked at data from 31,902 people who were over the age of 60. The team looked at factors such as grip strength as well as a walking test, and data came from personal interviews. Of the participants, 14.26% had diabetes and 17.67% showed signs of SO. Women and people living in urban areas had higher odds of developing SO if they had diabetes. There was a 9% higher likelihood of SO in older adults who already had diabetes compared to those who didn’t have diabetes. 

The team found that having SO was linked to increased risk of falls, frailty and disabilities pertaining to activities of daily living (ADL) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADL).

Recent studies indicate that the prevalence of SO in people with diabetes is likely due to adipose tissue dysfunction and muscle wasting that’s triggered by insulin resistance, chronic inflammation and altered protein metabolism, the authors wrote. In fact, one study estimated that 27% of people with diabetes have SO.

People who have SO have a higher risk for frailty, falls and disability because of compromised musculoskeletal integrity, gait abnormalities and lower functional capacity. Having SO adds to reduced strength, endurance and resilience, the researchers pointed out. The 17.67% prevalence of SO in patients with DM observed in the new study is much lower than other global studies that put it at about 27%, the authors noted.

“These findings emphasize the need for Standard diabetes care to integrate health promotion especially nutrition to mitigate the risk of SO-linked falls, frailty, and functional disabilities in daily living activities,” the authors wrote.