The more muscle mass older people have, the less likely they are to die prematurely, new research shows. The findings add to the growing evidence that overall body composition – and not the widely used body mass index, or BMI – is a better predictor of all-cause mortality. “In other words, the greater your muscle mass, the lower your risk of death,” said the study’s co-author. “Thus, rather than worrying about weight or body mass index, we should be trying to maximize and maintain muscle mass.”
The body composition of the study subjects was measured using bioelectrical impedance, which involves running an electrical current through the body. Muscle allows the current to pass more easily than fat does, due to muscle’s water content. In this way, the researchers could determine a muscle mass index – the amount of muscle relative to height – similar to a body mass index. They looked at how this muscle mass index was related to the risk of death. They found that all-cause mortality was significantly lower in the fourth quartile of muscle mass index compared with the first quartile.
Source: University of California – Los Angeles Health Sciences. “Older adults: Build muscle and you’ll live longer.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 March 2014.