Abstract: Obesity may aggravate the effects of sarcopenia on skeletal muscle structure and function in the elderly, but no study has attempted to identify the gene variants associated with sarcopenia in obese women. Therefore, the aims of the present study were to: (1) describe neuromuscular function in sarcopenic and non-sarcopenic women with or without obesity; (2) identify gene variants associated with sarcopenia in older obese women. In 307 Caucasian women (71 ± 6 years, 66.3 ± 11.3 kg), skeletal muscle mass was estimated using bioelectric impedance, and function was tested with a 30 s one-leg standing-balance test. Biceps brachii thickness and vastus lateralis cross-sectional area (VLACSA) were measured with B-mode ultrasonography. Handgrip strength, maximum voluntary contraction elbow flexion (MVCEF), and knee extension torque (MVCKE) were measured by dynamometry, and MVCKE/VLACSA was calculated. Genotyping was performed for 24 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), selected based on their previous associations with muscle-related phenotypes. Based on sarcopenia and obesity thresholds, groups were classified as sarcopenic obese, non-sarcopenic obese, sarcopenic non-obese, or non-sarcopenic non-obese. A two-way analysis of covariance was used to assess the main effects of sarcopenia and obesity on muscle-related phenotypes and binary logistic regression was performed for each SNP to investigate associations with sarcopenia in obesity. There were no significant obesity * sarcopenic status interactions for any of the investigated muscle-related phenotypic parameters. Neither sarcopenia nor obesity had a significant effect on biceps brachii thickness, but sarcopenia was associated with lower VLACSA (p = 0.003). Obesity was associated with lower MVCEF (p = 0.032), MVCKE (p = 0.047), and MVCKE/VLACSA (p = 0.012) with no significant effect of sarcopenia. Adjusted for age and height, three SNPs (ACTN3 rs1815739, MTHFR rs1801131, and MTHFR rs1537516) were associated with sarcopenia in obese participants. Sarcopenia was associated with a smaller muscle size, while obesity resulted in a lower muscle quality irrespective of sarcopenia. Three gene variants (ACTN3 rs1815739, MTHFR rs1801131, and MTHFR rs1537516) suspected to affect muscle function, homocysteine metabolism, or DNA methylation, respectively, were associated with sarcopenia in obese elderly women. Understanding the skeletal muscle features affected by sarcopenia and obesity, and identification of genes related to sarcopenia in obese women, may facilitate early detection of individuals at particular risk of sarcopenic obesity.
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