A new study has suggested that fatty muscle, a condition called myosteatosis, could be more hazardous to health than belly fat accumulating around abdominal organs. The study, published in the journal Radiology, found that fatty muscle was associated with a 15.5% increase in absolute risk of death in a group of healthy adults, compared to a 7.6% increase in mortality risk for obesity. The researchers suggested that the risk of death could be higher if myosteatosis was combined with a fatty liver or visceral fat. The study was conducted on a group of nearly 9,000 healthy patients who underwent virtual colonoscopy CT scans between 2004 and 2016. Researchers trained an artificial intelligence tool to extract body composition measures from the scans and evaluated belly fat, muscle fat, liver fat, and muscle wasting for each participant. The team then tracked participants for an average of nine years to assess whether any of these measures were related to major health problems or early death. The association between muscle fat and mortality risk held even after researchers accounted for each person’s BMI. However, the study cannot draw a clear cause-and-effect relationship between muscle fat and the risk of death. Muscle fat might be accumulating because of another health problem that’s the true risk. Other studies have drawn a link between fatty muscles and poor outcomes, including myosteatosis, which is a hallmark of certain types of muscular dystrophy. It’s not clear how to rid oneself of unwanted muscle fat, but exercise and weight loss are good ways to reduce it. CT scans seem to be the best way to assess muscle fat levels at this time.
Excess Fat Around Muscles Poses Health Risks