Reexamining the Sarcopenia Hypothesis: Muscle Mass versus Muscle Strength


Address for correspondence: Dr. M. Visser, Institute for Research in Extramural Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Vrije Universiteit, Van der Boechorststraat 7, 1081 BT Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Voice: +31 20 444 8256; fax: +31 20 444 8181.


Abstract: The association of muscle mass and muscle strength with lower-extremity performance, as measured by timed repeated chair stands, was investigated using preliminary data from 3,075 Black and White participants (70–79 years old) in the Health, Aging, and Body Composition Study. Leg muscle mass (LM) was measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (Hologic QDR 4500). The maximal isokinetic torque of the leg extensors (LS) was measured at 60°/s using a Kin-Com isokinetic dynamometer. Men were stronger, had greater LM, and better performance than women. As expected, low LS was associated with poorer performance after adjusting for race, study site, and body fat. Low LM was associated with poorer performance in men and women, with a potential threshold effect in women only. When LS and LM were modeled simultaneously, only LS remained independently associated with performance. In conclusion, muscle strength, but not muscle mass, is independently associated with lower-extremity performance.