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  • 1 September 2017 to 31 August 2018
  • Project No: 364
  • Funding round: FR 13

Body composition in aging and disease

Muscles attached to bones are known as skeletal muscle. Skeletal muscle is important for good health and helps us to stay active and lead independent lives. But the amount of skeletal muscle mass (SMM) reduces as we get older and this contributes to the decline in physical wellbeing and increases the risk of ill health.

Until recently, it has been hard to measure SMM accurately in simple ways, but SMM can now be measured routinely using a tool known as bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA). These measurements are similar to standing on a bathroom scale but give information on weight, and the amount of fat and SMM in the body. These measurements could be made in the doctor’s surgery, but to be useful to the doctor and patients, they need to be compared to a reference table of measurements typical for men and for women at different ages (similar to the charts to check the growth of babies). Our primary aim is to create such reference charts. Secondly, we aim to see if the amount of SMM is related to physical function, the likelihood of being admitted to hospital or even the risk of early death.

Our study will use SMM measurements from more than half a million people, aged 40-69 years, from the UK Biobank study. We will produce charts which show SMM in men and in women at different ages. Secondly, we will investigate whether SMM is a better tool for predicting future health problems, including hospital admission and early death, than simpler measurements of body weight. These results will help identify the amount of muscle mass which might act as a warning to doctors for people who are at high risk of ill-health and to measure whether interventions to slow down the loss of muscle mass are effective.

Amount awarded: £30,549

Evidence synthesis working group

The collaboration will be conducting 18 high impact systematic reviews, under four workstreams.

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