Sarcopenia found in adults with learning disabilities at a lower age than in the general population


Sarcopenia is the degenerative loss of skeletal muscle mass associated with ageing. It is also a component of frailty syndrome.
The researchers in this Dutch study identified that this issue had been little studied in people with learning disabilities. They worked with 884 older people described as having borderline to profound learning disabilities, all aged 50 years and over to identify the prevalence of sarcopenia.

They carried out logistic regression analyses to identify associations of sarcopenia with characteristics of the people in the study, their mobility, physical activity, intake of energy and proteins, body mass index (BMI) and levels of CRP (C-reactive protein the levels of which in the blood might rise in response to inflammation), albumin and vitamin D in serum.

What they found was a prevalence of sarcopenia of 14.3% in total group. For those aged group 50–64, the prevalence was 12.7%.

In terms of the associations they looked for, Sarcopenia was positively associated with mobility impairment and inflammation and negatively with BMI.

Studies of prevalence of sarcopenia in healthy adults aged over 64 have found rates over over 20%, whereas this study found prevalence rates lower than this, but in a younger age group and that there were particular risk groups including those with low BMI or mobility impairment.

They suggest there is a need for further research to collect longitudinal data to further study the impact of sarcopenia on older adults with learning disabilities

Prevalence and associated factors of sarcopenia in older adults with intellectual disabilities, Bastiaanse L et al., in Research in Developmental Disabilities, 33, 6, 2004–2012

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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