Low Skeletal Muscle Mass Is Associated With Poor Structural Parameters of Bone and Impaired Balance in Elderly Men—The MINOS Study


  • The authors have no conflict of interest.


In 796 men, 50-85 years of age, decreased relative skeletal muscle mass index was associated with narrower bones, thinner cortices, and a consequent decreased bending strength (lower section modulus), as well as with impaired balance and an increased risk of falls.

Introduction: In men, appendicular skeletal muscle mass (ASM) is correlated positively with BMC and areal BMD (aBMD). In elderly men, low muscle mass and strength (sarcopenia) is associated with difficulties in daily living activities. The aim of this study was to evaluate if ASM is correlated with bone size, mechanical properties of bones, balance, and risk of falls in elderly men.

Materials and Methods: This study used 796 men, 50-85 years of age, belonging to the MINOS cohort. Lifestyle factors were evaluated by standardized questionnaires. Estimates of mechanical bone properties were derived from aBMD measured by DXA. ASM was estimated by DXA. The relative skeletal muscle mass index (RASM) was calculated as ASM/(body height)2.3.

Results: After adjustment for age, body size, tobacco smoking, professional physical activity, and 17β-estradiol concentration, RASM was correlated positively with BMC, aBMD, external diameter, and cortical thickness (r = 0.17-0.34, p < 0.0001) but not with volumetric BMD. Consequently, RASM was correlated with section modulus (r = 0.29-0.39, p < 0.0001). Men in the lowest quartile of RASM had section modulus of femoral neck and distal radius lower by 12-18% in comparison with men in the highest quartile of RASM. In contrast, bone width was not correlated with fat mass, reflecting the load of body weight (except for L3), which suggests that the muscular strain may exert a direct stimulatory effect on periosteal apposition. After adjustment for confounding variables, a decrease in RASM was associated with increased risk of falls and of inability to accomplish clinical tests of muscle strength, static balance, and dynamic balance (odds ratio per 1 SD decrease in RASM, 1.31-2.23; p < 0.05-0.001).

Conclusions: In elderly men, decreased RASM is associated with narrower bones and thinner cortices, which results in a lower bending strength. Low RASM is associated with impaired balance and with an increased risk of falls in elderly men. It remains to be studied whether low RASM is associated with decreased periosteal apposition and with increased fracture risk in elderly men, and whether the difference in skeletal muscle mass between men and women contributes to the between-sex difference in fracture incidence.