Background: High levels of intramuscular adipose tissue and low levels of capillarization are both predicative of low muscle and mobility function in older adults, however little is known about their relationship. Objectives: The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship of intramuscular adipose tissue and capillarization in older adults. Setting: An outpatient medical center. Participants: Forty-seven sedentary adults (age 59.9 ± 1.0 years, BMI 32.0 ± 0.7 kg/m2 , VO2max 22.4 ± 0.7 ml/kg/min); Measurements: All participants underwent CT scans to determine intramuscular adipose tissue and muscle biopsies to determine capillarization in the mid-thigh. A step-wise hierarchical linear regression analysis was used to examine the contributions of age, sex, race, body mass index, 2-hour postprandial glucose, VO2max, and muscle capillarization, to the variability in intramuscular adipose tissue. Results: The predictors as a group accounted for 38.1% of the variance in intramuscular adipose tissue, with body mass index and capillarization each significantly contributing to the final model (P<0.001). The part correlation of body mass index with intramuscular adipose tissue was r = 0.47, and the part correlation of capillarization with intramuscular adipose tissue was r = 0.39, indicating that body mass index and capillarization explained 22.1%, and 15.2% of the variance in intramuscular adipose tissue. Conclusions: While increased muscle capillarization is typically thought of as a positive development, in some clinical conditions, such as tendinopathies, an increase in capillarization is part of the pathological process related to expansion of the extracellular matrix and fibrosis. This may also be an explanation for the surprising finding that high capillarization is related to high levels of intramuscular adipose tissue. Future studies are necessary to determine the relationship of changes in both capillarization and intramuscular adipose tissue after interventions, such as exercise.

(1) Addison, O., Ryan, A.S., Blumenthal, J. et al. Increased Intramuscular Adipose Tissue is Related to Increased Capillarization in Older Adults. J Frailty Aging (2020).

Article O. Addison