Loss of skeletal muscle mass is common with aging and can cause morbidity and mortality in the elderly. The effects of particulate air pollution on skeletal muscle mass is not known. The study aims to assess the chronic effects of ambient fine particulates (PM2.5) on the body composition of the elderly. From October 2015 to November 2016, a cross-sectional survey on 530 elderly (age > = 65 years) was conducted in the Taipei Basin, Taiwan. The body composition was measured by bioelectrical impedance analysis (InBody 120). One year exposure to air pollution was estimated using the Kriging method at the participant's residence. Multiple linear regression analysis, after adjustments for demographics and co-pollutants, was used to examine the effects of PM2.5 on body composition indices and force of handgrip. Changes in body composition for an interquartile (1.4 μm/m3) increase in PM2.5 concentration included a 0.4 kg (95% confidence interval (CI): -0.31, -0.58; p < 0.0001) decrease in skeletal muscle mass (2.0%) and a 0.7 kg (95% CI: 0.47, 0.91; p < 0.0001) increase in body fat mass (3.6%). While PM2.5 reduced fat free mass in the upper extremities and trunk, but not in the lower extremities, it increased body fat mass in the three parts. There was no significant effect of PM2.5 on handgrip force. Higher physical activity (versus lower than median) was associated with less detrimental effect of PM2.5 on skeletal muscle mass and body fat mass (p values for interaction term: 0.009 and 0.013, respectively). Long-term PM2.5 exposure is associated with decreased skeletal muscle mass and increased body fat mass in the elderly, which can be ameliorated by physical activity.
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