Greater skeletal muscle fat infiltration is associated with higher all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in older men

Iva Miljkovic, Allison L. Kuipers, Jane A. Cauley, Tanushree Prasad, Christine G. Lee, Kristine E. Ensrud, Peggy M. Cawthon, Andrew R. Hoffman, Thuy Tien Dam, Christopher L. Gordon, Joseph M. Zmuda

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97 Scopus citations


Background. Skeletal muscle fat infiltration (myosteatosis) increases with aging, and has been associated with poor metabolic and musculoskeletal health, independent of overall adiposity. Studies examining the relationship of myosteatosis and mortality among older individuals recruited without regard to their health status are sparse. Methods. We evaluated the association of peripheral computed tomography measured calf myosteatosis (intermuscular fat and muscle density as a measure of intramuscular fat) with mortality in 1,063 community-dwelling older men. Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate the risk of mortality independent of potential confounders. Results. During a mean follow-up of 7.2 years, 317 participants died. After adjustment for potential covariates and additional adjustment for whole body fat, lower skeletal muscle density was associated with increased all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality (hazard ratio [95% confidence interval] per standard deviation lower skeletal muscle density: 1.24 [1.09-1.41] and 1.46 [1.15-1.86], respectively), and to some extent with noncardiovascular disease mortality (1.18 [1.0-1.38], p = .053). After adjusting for trunk fat in a separate multivariable model, the association between skeletal muscle density and all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality remained significant (both p < .01), while its association with noncardiovascular disease mortality became of borderline significance (p = .085). No other measures of adiposity, including calf intermuscular fat, were associated with mortality. Conclusion. Our study reveals an independent association between skeletal muscle density and mortality in a community-based sample of older, predominantly Caucasian men. Further studies are needed to establish if this association is independent of other ectopic fat depots, and to identify the biological mechanisms underlying this relationship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1133-1140
Number of pages8
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Gerontological Society of America. All rights reserved.


  • Aging
  • Mortality
  • Muscle density
  • Skeletal muscle fat infiltration


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