'Sarcobesity': A metabolic conundrum

Evelyn B. Parr, Vernon G. Coffey, John A. Hawley*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

80 Citations (Scopus)


Two independent but inter-related conditions that have a growing impact on healthy life expectancy and health care costs in developed nations are an age-related loss of muscle mass (i.e., sarcopenia) and obesity. Sarcopenia is commonly exacerbated in overweight and obese individuals. Progression towards obesity promotes an increase in fat mass and a concomitant decrease in muscle mass, producing an unfavourable ratio of fat to muscle. The coexistence of diminished muscle mass and increased fat mass (so-called 'sarcobesity') is ultimately manifested by impaired mobility and/or development of life-style-related diseases. Accordingly, the critical health issue for a large proportion of adults in developed nations is how to lose fat mass while preserving muscle mass. Lifestyle interventions to prevent or treat sarcobesity include energy-restricted diets and exercise. The optimal energy deficit to reduce body mass is controversial. While energy restriction in isolation is an effective short-term strategy for rapid and substantial weight loss, it results in a reduction of both fat and muscle mass and therefore ultimately predisposes one to an unfavourable body composition. Aerobic exercise promotes beneficial changes in whole-body metabolism and reduces fat mass, while resistance exercise preserves lean (muscle) mass. Current evidence strongly supports the inclusion of resistance and aerobic exercise to complement mild energy-restricted high-protein diets for healthy weight loss as a primary intervention for sarcobesity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-113
Number of pages5
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes


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