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01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2016 Open Access

BMC Public Health 1/2016

Sarcopenic obesity and physical performance in middle aged women: a cross-sectional study in Northeast Brazil

BMC Public Health > Ausgabe 1/2016
Mayle A. Moreira, Maria Victoria Zunzunegui, Afshin Vafaei, Saionara M. A. da Câmara, Tamyres S. Oliveira, Álvaro C. C. Maciel
Wichtige Hinweise

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

MAM, MVZ and ACCM contributed to the conception and design of the present study and analysis plan. MAM, MVZ and AV analyzed the data with feedback from all authors. MAM, MVZ and AV also wrote the manuscript. MAM, SMAC and TSO contributed to the acquisition of data. All authors contributed to the interpretation of the data and to critical review of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.



Sarcopenia and obesity have been independently associated with physical function decline, however little information is currently available on the relationship between sarcopenic obesity and physical performance, mainly in middle aged women. The present study aims to estimate the prevalence of sarcopenic obesity and to explore the relationship between sarcopenic obesity and physical performance in middle-aged women from Northeast Brazil.


A cross-sectional study of women (40–65 years) living in Parnamirim, a city in Northeast Brazil (n = 491). Physical performance was assessed by grip strength, knee extensor and flexor strength (isometric dynamometry), gait speed, and chair stands. Using bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA), appendicular skeletal muscle mass divided by height squared (kg / m2) was used to define sarcopenia. Waist circumference ≥ 88 cm was defined as abdominal obesity. Sarcopenic obesity was defined as the coexistence of obesity and sarcopenia. The physical performance outcomes were regressed in four groups defined by combinations of sarcopenia and obesity, adjusting for potential confounders (age, education and menopausal status).


Prevalence rates of the four obesity-sarcopenia groups were: Sarcopenic obesity (7.1 %), obesity (67.4 %), sarcopenia (12.4 %) and normal (13 %). Women with sarcopenic obesity had significantly lower grip strength, weaker knee extension and flexion and longer time to raise from a chair compared with non-obese and non-sarcopenic women (p.values < 0.001). Except for the chair stands, these statistically significant differences were also found between sarcopenic obese and obese women. There was no significant difference for gait speed across the four groups (p = 0.50).


Sarcopenic obesity was present in 7 % of this population of middle-aged women from Northeast Brazil and it was associated with poor physical performance. Sarcopenic obesity may occur in middle-aged women with performance limitations beyond pure sarcopenia-related muscle mass or obesity alone.
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