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Association of Obesity and Frailty in Older Adults: NHANES 1999–2004

Crow, Rebecca S., Lohman, M. C., Titus, A. J., Cook, S. B., Bruce, M. L., Mackenzie, T. A., Bartels, S. J., Batsis, J. A.
The journal of nutrition, health & aging 2019 v.23 no.2 pp. 138-144
National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, adiposity, body mass index, dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, elderly, females, obesity, observational studies, waist circumference, walking
OBJECTIVES: Body composition changes with aging can increase rates of obesity, frailty and impact function. Measuring adiposity using body fat (%BF) or central adiposity using waist circumference (WC) have greater diagnostic accuracy than traditional measures such as body mass index (BMI). DESIGN: This is an observational study. SETTING: This study focused on older community-dwelling participants. PARTICIPANTS: We identified individuals age ≥ 60 years old using the 1999–2004 cross-sectional National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES). INTERVENTION: The primary analysis evaluated the association between frailty and %BF or WC. Frailty was the primary predictor (robust=referent) and %BF and WC were considered continuous outcomes. Multiple imputation analyses accounted for missing characteristics. MEASUREMENT: Dual energy x-ray absorptiometry was used to assess %BF and WC was objectively measured. Frailty was defined using an adapted version of Fried’s criteria that was self-reported: (low BMI<18.5kg/m²; slow walking speed [<0.8m/s]; weakness [unable to lift 10lbs]; exhaustion [difficulty walking between rooms on same floor] and low physical activity [compared to others]). Robust, pre-frail and frail persons met zero, 1 or 2, and ≥3 criteria, respectively. RESULTS: Of the 4,984 participants, the mean age was 71.1±0.2 (SE) years and 56.5% were females. We classified 2,246 (50.4%), 2,195 (40.3%), and 541 (9.2%) individuals as robust, pre-frail and frail, respectively. Percent BF was 35.9±0.13, 38.3±0.20 and 40.0±0.46 in the robust, pre-frail and frail individuals, respectively. WC was 99.5±0.32 in the robust, 100.1±0.43 in pre-frail, 104.7±1.17 in frail individuals. Compared to robust individuals, only frail individuals had greater %BF on average (β=0.97±0.43,p=0.03); however, pre-frail and frail individuals had 2.18 and 4.80 greater WC, respectively (β=2.18±0.64,p=0.002, and β=4.80±1.1,p<0.001). CONCLUSION: Our results demonstrate that in older adults, frailty and pre-frailty are associated with a greater likelihood of high WC (as dichotomized) and a greater average WC (continuous).