Sarcopenic Obesity: Time to Meet the Challenge

Rocco Barazzoni*, Stephan Bischoff, Yves Boirie, Luca Busetto, Tommy Cederholm, Dror Dicker, Hermann Toplak, Andre Van Gossum, Volkan Yumuk, Roberto Vettor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

133 Scopus citations


The prevalence of overweight and obesity has reached epidemic proportions worldwide due to increasingly pervasive obesogenic lifestyle changes. Obesity poses unprecedented individual, social, and multidisciplinary medical challenges by increasing the risk for metabolic diseases, chronic organ failures, and cancer as well as complication rates in the presence of acute disease conditions. Whereas reducing excess adiposity remains the fundamental pathogenic treatment for obese individuals, complex metabolic and lifestyle abnormalities as well as weight reduction therapies per se may also compromise the ability to preserve muscle function and mass, especially when chronic disease co-exists with obesity. Emerging evidence indicates that low muscle mass and quality have a strong negative prognostic impact in obese individuals and may lead to frailty, disability, and increased morbidity and mortality. Awareness of the importance of skeletal muscle maintenance in obesity is however low among clinicians and scientists. The term 'sarcopenic obesity' has been proposed to identify obesity with low skeletal muscle function and mass, but its utilization is largely limited to the aging patient population, and consensus on its definition and diagnostic criteria remains insufficient. Knowledge on prevalence of sarcopenic obesity in various clinical conditions and patient subgroups, on its clinical impacts in patient risk stratification, and on effective prevention and treatment strategies remain therefore dramatically inadequate. In particular, optimal dietary options and medical nutritional support strategies to preserve muscle mass in obese individuals remain largely undefined. The European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (ESPEN) and the European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO) recognize and indicate obesity with altered body composition due to low skeletal muscle function and mass (sarcopenic obesity) as a scientific and clinical priority for researchers and clinicians. ESPEN and EASO therefore call for coordinated action aimed at reaching consensus on its definition, diagnostic criteria, and optimal treatment with particular regard to nutritional therapy. We are convinced that achievement of these goals has a strong potential to reduce the burden of morbidity and mortality in the rapidly increasing obese patient population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)294-305
Number of pages12
JournalObesity Facts
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2018


  • Obesity
  • Sarcopenia
  • Skeletal muscle


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