Background: Sarcopenia, defined as age-related diminution of muscle mass and strength, is a key determinant of frailty status and progression. We investigated the hypothesis that changing masseter muscle structure with advancing age may contribute to the development of frailty. Methods: Study data were excerpted from the I-Lan Longitudinal Aging Study, a research cohort of community-dwelling residents aged ≥53 years from Yilan (I-Lan) County, Taiwan. The study sample comprised 56 subjects classified as frail, 41 pre-frail, and 41 robust, according to Cardiovascular Health Study criteria; all groups were matched by age and sex. Masseter muscle volume was quantified based on T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging, and adjusted for height to derive the masseter volume index (MVI). Appendicular skeletal muscle mass index (SMI) was determined by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, and used to derive the height-adjusted skeletal mass index (SMI). Nutrition status was assessed with the Mini-Nutritional Assessment (MNA) form. Results: The MVI was significantly smaller in frail versus pre-frail subjects. Among frail individuals, only the MVI was significantly correlated with MNA scores. MVI, but not SMI, was associated with increased risk of being frail versus pre-frail. An MVI cut-off score of 9.5 cm3/m2 in males discriminated frail from pre-frail status with acceptable sensitivity and specificity. Low MVI was associated with the frailty criteria of slowness. Conclusions: MVI is a potential clinical index for evaluating phenotypic frailty. Diminished masseter muscle volume may predispose pre-frail/frail elders to depletion of physical reserves, consequent to its detrimental effect on oral functioning and nutrient intake.
- Masseter muscle mass