Here’s one more reason why you need to shed those extra pounds today. New research discovers that carrying far too much weight coupled with a potbelly or muffin top could increase your chances of becoming frail in old age.

Researchers identified frailty as three or more of these five listed criteria: unintentional weight loss, exhaustion, weakness, sluggish walking speed, and low physical activity. One who is pre-frail presents with one or two of these criteria.

Essentially, frailty exposes one to adverse events such as falls; disability; hospitalization; reduced quality of life; and death and is often preceded by pre-frailty. 

Prior studies suggest a possible link between obesity among older adults and the risk of becoming frail. They attributed it to the fact that obesity worsens age-related decline in muscle strength, breathing capacity, and physical function.

However, to date, there has been limited long-term evidence on the relationship between both weight changes and the risk of frailty over time. This inspired the team to examine the link between a person’s excess weight and tummy fat—both in combination and alone—with frailty or pre-frailty risk.

Study Methodology 

To do that, lead study author Shreeshti Uchai together with a team of scientists in Norway culled data from the Tromsø study. They involved a total of 4,509 participants above the age of 45 years.

The researchers took measurements of all participants’ body weight. Following the World Health Organization (WHO) criteria, they considered a value of less than 18.5kg/m² as underweight, 18.5 to 24.9kg/m² as normal, 25.0 to 29.9kg/m² as overweight, and more than 30kg/m² as being obese.

Next were measurements of participants’ waist circumference of which a normal waist circumference was less than 94 cm for men and less than 80 cm for women. Moderately high waist size was identified as roughly 95 to 102 cm for men and 81 to 88 cm for women. Then a high waist size was anything high above the moderately high values.


During a follow-up period of over 21 years, roughly 28 percent were pre-frail, 1 percent were frail and 70 percent were strong. 

Overall, women made up slightly more than half of those who were strong and categorized as pre-frail.

Assessed by BMI alone, those who were obese or overweight years back were 2.5 times more likely to become pre-frail/frail than those with normal body mass index (BMI).

While those with moderately high waist sizes had 57 percent increased chances of becoming pre-frail or frail, those with a high waist size were twice as likely to be pre-frail or frail.

Moving forward, they found no link with frailty among participants who had normal weight but high or moderately high waist size or participants who were overweight with a normal waistline.

However, when assessing both BMI and waistline jointly, those who were both overweight or obese and had a moderately high/high waist size did have likely chances of frailty.

Participants who put on weight and those whose waistline grew over time had an increased likelihood of being pre-frail or frail than those who maintained normal body weight and waistline throughout.


Overall, findings from this study suggest body mass index and the waistline can be used to identify the risk of frailty.

Uchai and colleagues give some possible explanations as regards their findings.

They suggest excess weight could contribute to inflammation which is tied to frailty among older adults. Obesity causes elevated fat mass which infiltrates muscle fibers and leads to an age-related decline in muscle strength and function, thereby raising the odds of being frail or disabled. 

Therefore, if you want to reduce the risk of frailty in old age, start by maintaining a good body weight and a normal waistline throughout adulthood. Look out for pot belly or muffin tops and eliminate them as necessary.

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