European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 115, Issue 8, pp 1627–1635 | Cite as

Skeletal muscle size is a major predictor of intramuscular fat content regardless of age

  • Hiroshi Akima
  • Akito Yoshiko
  • Maya Hioki
  • Nana Kanehira
  • Kiyoshi Shimaoka
  • Teruhiko Koike
  • Hisataka Sakakibara
  • Yoshiharu Oshida
Original Article



Skeletal muscles of older individuals have a larger amount of intramuscular adipose tissue (IntraMAT) than those of younger individuals. It is not understood how aging affects the IntraMAT content of individual muscles of the thigh. We assessed the relationship between IntraMAT content and skeletal muscle cross-sectional area (CSA), subcutaneous adipose tissue CSA, biochemical blood profiles, and physical activity.


Fifteen older (70.7 ± 3.8 years) and 15 younger (20.9 ± 0.3 years) men and women participated in this study. Magnetic resonance imaging of the right thigh was taken to measure IntraMAT content and skeletal muscle CSA for the quadriceps femoris (QF), hamstrings (HM), adductor (AD) muscle groups and subcutaneous adipose tissue CSA of the thigh. Fasting blood samples were collected to measure plasma lipids, adiponectin, and HbA1c levels.


IntraMAT content in QF, HM, and AD for the Older group was significantly higher than in the Younger group. However, skeletal muscle CSA normalized by body weight (skeletal muscle CSA/bw) in the QF (P < 0.001) and total thigh (P < 0.01) were significantly lower in the Older group compared with the Younger group.There were no significant differences in HM and AD. Stepwise regression analysis with IntraMAT content as a dependent variable revealed that skeletal muscle CSA/bw of the thigh was the only predictive variable for IntraMAT content in Older and Younger groups.


These results suggest that skeletal muscle size could be a major determinant of IntraMAT content regardless of age.


Skeletal muscle Sarcopenia Magnetic resonance imaging Blood lipids 



Hip adductor


Adductor longus


Adductor magnus


Analysis of variance


Biceps femoris-long head


Cross-sectional area


Free fatty acids




High-density lipoprotein-cholesterol




Intramuscular adipose tissue


Low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol


Magnetic resonance imaging


Quadriceps femoris


Rectus femoris












Total cholesterol


Vastus intermedius


Vastus lateralis


Vastus medialis



The authors gratefully thank the volunteers for participation as well as Drs Haruo Isoda and Atsushi Fukuyama and Radiologic technologist Mr. Akira Ishizuka, Graduate School of Medicine, Nagoya University. This study was supported in part by a Grant-in-Aid for challenging Exploratory Research from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports and Science and Technology Grant (#23650432) to HA.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hiroshi Akima
    • 1
    • 2
  • Akito Yoshiko
    • 3
  • Maya Hioki
    • 3
  • Nana Kanehira
    • 5
  • Kiyoshi Shimaoka
    • 6
  • Teruhiko Koike
    • 1
    • 3
  • Hisataka Sakakibara
    • 4
  • Yoshiharu Oshida
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Research Center of Health, Physical Fitness and SportsNagoya UniversityNagoyaJapan
  2. 2.Graduate School of Education and Human DevelopmentNagoya UniversityNagoyaJapan
  3. 3.Graduate School of MedicineNagoya UniversityNagoyaJapan
  4. 4.Graduate School of MedicineNagoya UniversityNagoyaJapan
  5. 5.Faculty of Human Wellness and NutritionTokaigakuen UniversityMiyoshiJapan
  6. 6.Faculty of Human WellnessTokaigakuen UniversityMiyoshiJapan

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