Background: Knowledge about the molecular pathomechanisms of sarcopenia is still sparse, especially with regard to nutritional risk factors and the subtype of sarcopenic obesity. Objective: The aim of this study was to characterize diet-induced and age-related changes on the quality and quantity of the quadriceps muscle in a rat model of sarcopenia by different magnetic resonance (MR) techniques. Methods: A total of 36 6-month-old male Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly subdivided into 2 groups and received either a high-fat diet (HFD) or a control diet (CD). At the age of 16 months, 15 HFD and 18 CD rats underwent MR at 1.5 T. T1-weighted images as well as T2 relaxation time maps were acquired perpendicular to the long axis of the quadriceps muscles. Maximum cross-sectional area (CSA) of the quadriceps muscle was measured on T1-weighted images, and T2 relaxation times of muscle were assessed in a region without visible intramuscular fat (T2lean muscle) and across the complete CSA (T2muscle). Furthermore, 1H-MR spectroscopy was performed to evaluate the relative lipid content of the quadriceps muscles. These measurements were repeated 5 months later in the surviving 8 HFD and 14 CD rats. Results: HFD rats revealed significantly decreased CSA and CSA per body weight (BW) as well as prolonged T2 relaxation times of muscle. A higher weight gain (upper tertile during the first 6 months of diet in CD rats) resulted in a significant change of T2muscle, but had no relevant impact on CSA. Advancing age up to 21 months led to significantly decreased BW, CSA and CSA/BW, significantly prolonged T2muscle and T2lean muscle and enlarged lipid content in the quadriceps muscle. Conclusions: In an experimental setting a chronically fat-enriched diet was shown to have a relevant and age-associated influence on both muscle quantity and quality. By translational means the employed MR techniques give rise to the possibility of an early detection and noninvasive quantification of sarcopenia in humans, which is highly relevant for the field of geriatrics.

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