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J Gerontol. 1990 Nov;45(6):M181-5.

Body fat distribution in healthy young and older men.

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  • 1Division of Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine, Harborview Medical Center, Seattle, WA 98104.


Central and/or intraabdominal (IA) fat is an independent predictor of obesity-related metabolic abnormalities in young and middle-aged subjects. The elderly are "fatter" at any given relative weight and often have similar metabolic abnormalities. In this study we compare body composition, circumferences, and specific fat depots areas in a population of healthy young and older men. Although the two groups were similar in body mass index and percent body fat, their distribution of adiposity was different. The young subjects had 16% and 10% larger thigh (p = .0001) and arm (p less than .01) circumferences respectively, while the ratio of waist-to-hip circumference was greater in the older subjects (0.93 +/- 0.04 vs 0.97 +/- 0.04, p = less than .01). The most striking differences between the groups were noted on computed tomography, with a twofold greater IA fat area (72.6 +/- 38.2 vs 143.6 +/- 56.2 cm2, p less than .0001), and a twofold lesser thigh subcutaneous fat area (156.3 +/- 69.3 vs 82.4 +/- 29.7 cm2, p less than .001) in the older subjects. We conclude there is an age-related central and intraabdominal redistribution of adipose mass, even in healthy older subjects. Since these changes occur in the absence of clinical disease, the associations between metabolic abnormalities and a central and or IA distribution of adiposity in the elderly must be investigated further.

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