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Cachexia versus sarcopenia

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Abstract

Purpose of review

The review summarizes and discusses the proposed new definitions for sarcopenia and cachexia. It also highlights the overlapping of both conditions and the fact that these conditions frequently occur in elderly patients.

Recent findings

Sarcopenia is now recognized as a multifactorial geriatric syndrome. Cachexia is defined as a metabolic syndrome in which inflammation is the key feature and so cachexia can be an underlying condition of sarcopenia. Recently, cachexia has been defined as ‘a complex metabolic syndrome associated with underlying illness and characterized by loss of muscle mass with or without loss of fat mass. The prominent clinical feature of cachexia is weight loss in adults’. Different recommendations have been proposed for the diagnosis of sarcopenia. At present, all definitions combine an assessment of muscle mass and muscle function (strength or physical performances such as gait speed). However, the relevance and the validation of these evolving definitions need to be assessed in future studies.

Summary

Although the recent definitions of sarcopenia and cachexia boost research in the field and define distinct entities, the cause behind the loss of muscle mass (whether cachexia or sarcopenia) may, however, be indistinguishable in clinical practice. Therefore, new therapeutic approaches, alone or in combination, could be targeted on both conditions.

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