NIR shows its muscle

NIR spectroscopy is an effective way to determine muscle mass in the elderly, say Japanese medical researchers.

Although several studies have shown that NIR spectroscopy can determine the amount of fat someone is carrying, based on the absorption of NIR frequencies by the fat, no one had tried to see whether the same approach could work for muscle tissue. Determining muscle mass is especially important in the elderly, where the age-related loss of muscle, known as sarcopenia, can impair both their mobility and immune system, making them prone to falls and infection.

In a recent paper in Geriatrics & Gerontology International, Japanese researchers led by Daisuke Toshida at the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology in Obu report using NIR spectroscopy to determine the fat and muscle mass of 20 elderly patients with an average age of 73. This involved analysing the NIR absorption at six sites on the patients' bodies, including their arms and calves, to produce estimates of overall fat and muscle mass. They then compared these estimates with those produced by x-ray absorptiometry, which is a widely-used but fairly time-consuming technique for determining muscle and fat mass based on the absorption of x-rays.

When combined with information on the patient's height and weight, the NIR absorption measurements taken at the upper arm and forearm turned out to provide the most accurate estimate of overall fat and muscle mass. Following this initial success, the researchers are now looking to apply this NIR spectroscopy technique to larger groups of elderly patients.

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