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We are pleased to share that the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health’s (ISEH) Dr Tom Norris, has led and published new research that aimed to unpick the relationship between adiposity and grip strength. This was a collaborative study conducted in partnership with Dr Snehal Pinto Pereira (ISEH), Dr Victoria Garfield from our partner organisation University College London (UCL) and external collaborators Dr Eleanor Sanderson (University of Bristol) and Professor Rachel Cooper (Newcastle University).

Muscle weakness is a public health challenge especially among older adults. In the coming decades it will become an even greater concern because the global population is ageing. In large scale studies, muscle weakness is usually proxied by low absolute values of grip strength. Several genetic and environmental factors over life are associated with grip strength in adulthood. In fact, this team has previously demonstrated that there is a complex relationship between adiposity and grip strength (see previous research on this topic). The authors wanted to further explore the adiposityꟷgrip strength relationship and investigate whether chronic inflammation, which results from higher adiposity, was an underlying mechanism that explained the observed association. 

The team used data on over 350,000 males and females from UK Biobank and examined links between two indicators of adiposity (waist-hip ratio and body mass index), a marker of chronic inflammation (c-reactive protein (CRP)) and grip strength. They found that while greater adiposity may increase grip strength, the effect varied by sex and adiposity location (i.e., total vs central adiposity). They also found no evidence that chronic inflammation, resulting from higher adiposity, explained the adiposityꟷgrip strength association. 

Dr Norris said “Today’s young people are likely to spend greater proportions of their lives living with age-related conditions characterised by muscle weakness, compared to older generations. In addition, the current epidemic levels of obesity require a thorough understanding of how adiposity is related to muscle strength. We show that on average over a lifetime greater adiposity may increase grip strength, but the effect varies by sex and adiposity location. Importantly, across both sexes and adiposity indicators, chronic inflammation did not play a major role. Therefore, future studies are warranted to identify alternative mechanisms via which adiposity affects muscle strength, for example via insulin resistance or reduced physical activity”.

Continue reading their published research in Scientific Reports.