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BMC Geriatr. 2013 Jul 16;13:74. doi: 10.1186/1471-2318-13-74.

Relationship between muscle mass and muscle strength, and the impact of comorbidities: a population-based, cross-sectional study of older adults in the United States.



Loss of muscle mass and muscle strength are natural consequences of the aging process, accompanied by an increased prevalence of chronic health conditions. Research suggests that in the elderly, the presence of comorbidities may impact the muscle mass/strength relationship. The objectives of this study were to characterize the muscle mass/strength relationship in older adults in the USA and to examine the impact of a variety of comorbidities on this relationship.


Data were obtained from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2002 databases. Subjects aged 50 years and older were included in the present study. Muscle mass was assessed by height-adjusted appendicular skeleton muscle mass (aASM) in kg/m2, as measured by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. Muscle strength was assessed via isokinetic quadriceps strength (IQS) in newton as measured by a dynamometer. The relationship between aASM and IQS was assessed adjusting for age and gender. The effects of a variety of comorbidities on IQS and/or on the relationship between IQS and aASM were assessed using multiple regression models.


This study included 2,647 individuals, with a mean age of 62.6 years and 52.9% of whom were female. The mean (SE) aASM (kg/m2) was 7.3 (0.04), and the mean (SE) IQS (newton) was 365.0 (3.00). After adjusting for age and gender, the correlation coefficient between aASM and IQS was 0.365 (P < 0.001). Diabetes, coronary heart disease/congestive heart failure (CHD/CHF), and vision problems were significant predictors of lower muscle strength (P < 0.05) in the multiple regression models that adjusted for age, gender, and aASM, and obesity significantly modified the relationship between aASM and IQS (P < 0.05).


Among individuals aged 50 and older in the US, muscle mass and muscle strength are positively correlated, independent of the associations of age and gender with muscle mass and strength. A variety of comorbid medical conditions serve as independent predictors of lower muscle strength (e.g., diabetes, CHD/CHF, vision problems) and/or modify the relationship between muscle mass and muscle strength (e.g., obesity).

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