Study Title
Association of Low Muscle Mass With Cognitive Function During a 3Year Follow-up Among Adults Aged 65 to 86 Years in the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging

Anne-Julie Tessier, PhD; Simon S. Wing, MD; Elham Rahme, PhD; José A. Morais, MD; Stéphanie Chevalier, PhD


Cross-sectional studies have shown that combined low muscle mass and strength are associated with cognitive impairment. Whether low muscle mass, reflective of physiologic reserve, is independently associated with faster cognitive decline remains unknown.

To investigate the associations between low muscle mass and cognitive decline in 3 distinct domains among adults aged at least 65 years.

Design, Setting, and Participants
The Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging is a prospective population-based cohort study of community-dwelling adults. Enrollment occurred from 2011 to 2015 with a 3-year follow-up. Analyses for this study were conducted on those aged at least 65 years from April 24 to August 12, 2020.

Appendicular lean soft tissue mass (ALM) was assessed by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry. Low ALM was identified using the sex-specific Canadian cut points.

Main Outcomes and Measures
Memory was assessed using the Rey auditory verbal learning test. Executive function was assessed using the mental alternation test, Stroop high interference (words/dot) test, the animal fluency test, and the controlled oral word association test. Psychomotor speed was assessed using computer-administered choice reaction time. Composite scores by domain were created.

Of 8279 participants, 4003 (48%) were female, 8005 (97%) were White, and the mean (SD) age was 72.9 (5.6) years. A total of 1605 participants (19.4%) had low ALM at baseline. Participants with low ALM were older, had lower body mass index and physical activity level. The presence of low ALM at baseline was associated with faster 3-year cognitive decline in executive functions and psychomotor speed from multiple linear regressions. After adjusting for covariates including age, level of education, percentage body fat, and handgrip strength, low ALM remained independently associated with executive function decline (standardized β: −0.032; P = .03) only. Low ALM was not associated with memory.

Conclusions and Relevance
This cohort study found longitudinal associations between low ALM and cognition in aging. Identification of older adults with low muscle mass, a targetable modifiable factor, may help estimate those at risk for accelerated executive function decline. Further longer-term investigation of associations is warranted.

July 1, 2022
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