The endocrinology of sarcopenia and frailty

Vicky Kamwa, Carly Welch, Zaki Hassan Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sarcopenia describes low muscle mass and strength associated with ageing, whilst reduced physical performance indicates the severity of the condition. It can happen independently of other medical conditions and can be a key feature of the frailty phenotype. Frailty is a syndrome of increased vulnerability to incomplete resolution of homeostasis, following a stressor event. Researchers have described the implications of hypothalamic pituitary dysregulation in the pathogenesis of both entities. This review summarises the recent evidence in this area as well as other endocrine factors such as insulin resistance and vitamin D status and outlines current research priorities.Evidence acquisitionWe conducted searches to PubMed and Embase databases for articles, reviews and studies reporting new data on the interaction between hormones of the endocrine system and frailty and/ or sarcopenia in the last 5 years. Interventional studies, cohort studies, case-control studies and animal studies were included. Clinical trials register was also searched to identify ongoing relevant studies.Evidence synthesisStudies have given us insights into the complex relationships between factors such as anabolic hormones, glucocorticoids and vitamin D on muscle strength and performance and their involvement in ageing phenotypes. However, robust randomised controlled trials are needed to consolidate existing evidence in humans and inform clinical practice. Current evidence supports hormone replacement in patients with confirmed deficiencies, to optimise health and prevent complications. Hormone replacement has limited use for age-related conditions. Current interest is focused on muscle/bone/fat interactions and health outcomes in 'sarcopenic obesity'.ConclusionsA life-course approach to improving 'health-span' is advocated. Lifestyle factors such as nutrition and physical activity have important interactions with body composition, physical function and metabolic outcomes. Large-scale clinical trials will determine the efficacy and long-term safety of hormone supplementation in the management of sarcopenia and frailty.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)453-468
JournalMinerva Endocrinologica
Issue number4
Early online date17 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


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