Home » Our research » Sarcopenia and multimorbidity

Sarcopenia and multimorbidity

Icon Sarcopenia and multimorbidity magnifying glass Icon Sarcopenia and multimorbidity magnifying glass

Theme leads

Professor Simon Jones

Sarcopenia and Multimorbidity Theme Lead

Professor Leigh Breen

Sarcopenia and Multimorbidity Theme Lead

Using cutting-edge science to understand and prevent poor skeletal muscle health and frailty in patients with multiple long-term health conditions.

Sarcopenia describes the loss skeletal muscle mass and function that is inherent to the ageing process, but also a complication arising from chronic inflammatory diseases. Sarcopenia reduces the ability to do normal everyday tasks and activities which are important for maintaining independence, and also increases the risk of frailty and disability. In the UK, 58% of those aged 60 years or older have two or more long term conditions, or multimorbidity, and most of these are inflammatory in nature. Many people with long term diseases and conditions may experience sarcopenia.

The excess healthcare costs of sarcopenia alone for the UK have been estimated as £2.5 billion each year. In addition, poor musculoskeletal health in the UK was one of the leading causes preventing people aged 60-64 years from working in 2022. The effects of muscle loss are not experienced evenly across society, because sex and social environment strongly drive health inequalities in ageing. As Birmingham has a high level of social deprivation, reducing sarcopenia and multimorbidity will help to address these health inequalities and reduce NHS and social care costs.

Within the NIHR Birmingham BRC Sarcopenia and Multimorbidity theme, we are exploring the underlying metabolic causes of muscle loss, with a focus on different inflammatory diseases, including chronic liver disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and arthritis. We are also investigating ways we might be able to treat sarcopenia in chronic inflammatory disease through lifestyle or pharmaceuticals, to deliver patient benefit. We are also looking at how gut bacteria change in these patient populations and how this might influence sarcopenia.

Latest case studies