(HealthDay News) — For older adults, greater muscle mass is associated with lower mortality, according to a study published online February 18 in The American Journal of Medicine.

Preethi Srikanthan, MD, and Arun S. Karlamangla, MD, PhD.=, from the University of California in Los Angeles, analyzed all-cause mortality data by 2004 for 3,659 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III. At the time of the survey (1988–1994), participants were aged ≥55 years (≥65 years if women). To remove frail elders from the sample, underweight individuals and those who died in the first two years of follow-up were excluded. Bioelectrical impedance was used to measure skeletal muscle mass, with the muscle mass index defined as muscle mass divided by height squared.

The researchers found that, in adjusted analyses, total mortality was significantly lower in the fourth quartile versus the first quartile of muscle mass index (adjusted risk ratio, 0.81 and adjusted hazard ratio, 0.80).

“This study demonstrates the survival predication ability of relative muscle mass and highlights the need to look beyond total body mass in assessing the health of older adults,” the authors write.

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