An increase in thigh fat predicts mobility loss in otherwise healthy older adults, according to US researchers.
They studied 2,306 people with a mean age of 74.6 years who had their ability to complete a 20-minute walk tested annually over four years.
The results, published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found both increasing thigh intermuscular fat and decreasing thigh muscle area to be significant predictors of walking speed decline.
Every 5.75cm2 increase in thigh intermuscular fat was associated with a 0.01m/s decrease in gait speed, whereas every 16.92cm2 decrease in thigh muscle was associated with a 0.01m/s decrease in gait speed, the study found.
The authors said: “High and increasing thigh intermuscular fat are important predictors of gait-speed decline, implying that fat infiltration into muscle contributes to a loss of mobility with age. Conversely, a decreasing thigh muscle area is also predictive of a decline in gait speed.”