Do you have muscle?

sarcopeniaThere are two types of fat in your body, one is subcutaneous fat, which is found just under your skin and is noticeable. It’s the type of fat that jiggles, dimples, and causes cellulite.

The other type is called visceral fat which is found on the inside of your body, under your abdominal muscle. It is more dangerous than subcutaneous fat because it can surround vital organs like your liver and heart. What makes visceral fat so dangerous? Manuel Villacorta, MS, RD, CSSD, one of the leading nutritionists in the San Francisco Bay Area explains that “The visceral fat cells literally function differently than subcutaneous fat cells. In comparison to visceral cells, subcutaneous cells are greater in number, but the visceral cells are actually larger in size per cell. And they get to be so big that they atrophy themselves—at which point they constantly, 24/7, produce cytokines. Cytokines are a hormone with known inflammatory properties. They promote atherosclerosis, tumor growth, aging, oxidation, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.” (1)

A recent laboratory study suggests that visceral fat may promote the spread and growth of ovarian cancer. Says Ernst Lengyel, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Chicago who led the research: “Cancer cells can feed from visceral fat and,” he adds, “there isn’t necessarily a connection to obesity because lean women also get ovarian cancer.” Other cancers such as breast, gastric, and colon, research shows, may also be fueled by visceral fat. (2)

However, a more serious condition has been seen in people who stay the same weight but start noticing unfavorable physical conditions. This is called, Sarcopenic obesity. Sarcopenic obesity is the mix of two different terms. Sarcopenia is the process of muscle wastage and of course obesity is excessive body fat levels.

Muscle mass is one of the key biomarkers of how well you are aging. Muscle burns fat, protects bones, gives you movement, prevents falls, reserves energy, and shapes and tones your body. So loss of muscle means accelerated aging, development of chronic diseases and loss of function, weakness, and lose of vitality.  Sarcopenia is not just muscle loss; it is a whole body effect. It affects your nervous system, ligaments, joints, circulation, and bone health.

Sarcopenia obesity is a lot worse than carrying visceral fat in that the risk of getting metabolic syndrome disease is higher. Hypertension is 2.3 times higher and diabetes is 19 times higher than normal people. (4) Similar to visceral fat, people who have sarcopenia obesity don’t show any changes on the scale.

After reaching to age of 25, you start losing muscle mass 0.5-1% per year, then 1-1.5% after the age of 40. The lost muscle is replaced with fat, and then people become sarcopenia obesity, which are found in skinny fat person. (5)

Commonly, sarcopenic obesity is found among elderly since they lose muscle as they age. They might have a fall and be less mobile, less able to move around, so they start losing lean muscle. Of course this situation can be seen among young adults too. Nowadays, younger people are taking some high-strength depression medication, which changes the metabolic process in their body. That type of medication also causes sarcopenic obesity due to inactivity.

However, Sarcopenic obesity is now seen in the non-medicated normal younger population groups due to working long hours in an office job, spending a lot of time sitting around in front of TV/computer screens.  Also watch out for yo-yo dieters who follow the dietary constrains such as eating less or eating certain kinds of foods. Not exercising and relying solely on limiting your diet only invites loss of muscle mass, increasing the chances that your condition will develop into sarcopenic obesity. Remember, muscle is lost faster than other tissues and you tend to lose muscle first. This is the one of the reasons that you may want to stay away from fad diets. (3)

When muscle mass begins to fade around age 25, this is a time when you are most susceptible to gaining weight. In the mist of this, diets that don’t require exercise relying solely on dietary restrictions to lose weight encourage loss of muscle and ultimately affect how well you age. (3) So if your work is mainly desk work and you commute by driving a car, you may be increasing your likelihood of developing chronic disease and you are also more prone to injury and becoming immobile for a long period of time.

According to a Professor Shinya Kuno of Tsukuba University in Japan, if your skeletal muscle is less than 22% in women and 27.3% in men and you are noticing the following physical conditions, you may have sarcopenia. (4)

  • ·         Stumbles more often
  • ·         Walk slower than used to
  • ·         Hunching over
  • ·         Preferring to use elevators and escalators over stairs
  • ·         Can not stand up using one foot while sitting in a chair
  • ·         Can not stand 60 seconds on one foot
  • ·         Can not wear socks standing on one foot
  • ·         House cleaning, yard work, and other physical chores around the house are getting harder.







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