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Associations between Changes in Abdominal and Thigh Muscle Quantity and Quality

KUK, JENNIFER L.1; CHURCH, TIMOTHY S.2; BLAIR, STEVEN N.3; ROSS, ROBERT4

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: July 2008 - Volume 40 - Issue 7 - p 1277-1281
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31816a2463
BASIC SCIENCES: Original Investigations

Background: Computed tomography (CT) images at L4-L5, T12-L1 and the midthigh are commonly used to assess abdominal adiposity, liver fat, and muscle quantity (mass) and quality (lipid), respectively. Unknown is whether abdominal skeletal muscle (SM) at L4-L5 or T12-L1 can also be used to reflect thigh SM quantity and quality, which is often considered the criterion measure. Also unclear is whether changes in thigh SM quantity and quality are reflected by corresponding changes in abdominal SM quantity and quality.

Purpose: We examined the associations between abdominal SM and thigh SM quantity and quality in overweight/obese postmenopausal women before (n = 125) and after (n = 86) a 6-month exercise intervention trial.

Methods: CT was used to assess muscle quantity and quality at the midthigh, L4-L5, and T12-L1.

Results: At baseline, abdominal SM quality was significantly associated with thigh SM quality at L4-L5 and T12-L1 (R2 = 0.22 and R2 = 0.37, respectively; P < 0.01). Similarly, at baseline, abdominal SM quantity and quality was significantly associated with thigh SM quantity at L4-L5 and T12-L1 (R2 = 0.37 and R2 = 0.48, respectively; P < 0.01). Changes in thigh SM mass were marginally associated with changes in abdominal SM at T12-L1 (R2 = 0.08, P = 0.01) but not at L4-L5 (P > 0.10). Changes in thigh SM quality were associated with corresponding changes in abdominal SM quality at both L4-L5 and T12-L1 (R2 = 0.43 and R2 = 0.73, respectively).

Conclusions: Measurements obtained from a single CT image taken within the abdomen are moderately correlated with measures of thigh SM quantity and quality at baseline. Changes in thigh SM mass are poorly tracked by changes in abdominal SM. However, abdominal SM does provide comparable measures of muscle quality change.

1School of Kinesiology and Health Science, York University, Toronto, Ontario, CANADA; 2Laboratory of Preventive Medicine Research, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana State University System, Baton Rouge, LA; 3Department of Exercise Science, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC; and 4School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, CANADA

Address for correspondence: Robert Ross, Ph.D., School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 3N6; E-mail: rossr@post.queensu.ca.

Submitted for publication November 2007.

Accepted for publication January 2008.

©2008The American College of Sports Medicine