Body Composition

The Link Between Body Composition and Longevity

Matthew Mace
January 30, 2023

Prioritize an increase in lean mass and reduce fat mass for longevity. 

Approximately 41.9% of Americans are obese, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between March 2017 and March 2022.

Not only is the medical cost of obesity roughly $173 billion a year [12], but the consequences span far more than financial. For example, people with obesity typically have an increased risk factor for morbidity and mortality from cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, cancer, and other chronic diseases, such as osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, kidney disease, and even depression [8].

Fat loss or, more importantly, improving body composition can improve longevity, reducing the risk of all-cause mortality and improving quality of life the longer you live.

What is body composition?

To understand why body composition is important, we need to provide a basic definition.

Body composition tells us how much fat, muscle, and bone is in the body. 

In more recent years, body composition has become an essential method for determining the desirable body weight of adults [6]. But it also provides a more accurate picture of a person’s health, especially when compared to a set of scales and standard BMI equations—these are flawed.

Why does body composition affect longevity? 

When body composition is assessed, we can see the percentages of lean mass, fat mass, and body fat %. Body fat can also be broken down a step further into android fat—body fat around the trunk and upper body—and gynoid fat—body fat around the hips, breasts, and thighs.

Not only is excess fat associated with an increased mortality risk [10], but too much android fat, for example, increases metabolic syndrome risks—diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity [7]. Excessive gynoid fat also increases your risk of hypertension and may impair glucose intolerance [13].

According to the CDC, life expectancy is, on average, 6 years shorter for people with type 2 diabetes. High blood pressure decreases life expectancy by 5.1 years for men and 4.9 years for women [2]. And having too little lean mass may increase the risk of osteoporosis.

How does body composition affect longevity?

Excessive body weight and severe obesity can cause insulin resistance, inflammation, alterations to hormonal and metabolic factors, and it even affects aging [1]. 

Conversely, higher percentages of lean mass—total weight of your body from non-fat sources like muscle, organs, water, connective tissue, etc.—are strongly associated with survival in older adults. 

Interestingly, increased fat mass—but not obesity—is thought to be protective in older women, whereas very low or very high-fat mass increases the risk of mortality in men [11,3].

Having more lean mass and muscle mass, especially as you get older, can protect against your bones becoming weaker [5]. This reduces the risks of falling and breaking or fracturing a bone.

Can you be obese and healthy?

Within the obese population, a subgroup has emerged who do not show the typical metabolic disorders associated with obesity. The correlation between the metabolically healthy obese (MHO) phenotype and their risk of CVD show mixed results.

One report that examined 20 studies found a trend toward a slight increase in CVD risk in MHO individuals compared to their normal-weight counterparts [9]. Another study found an excess risk between MHO and type 2 diabetes but not CVD [4].

Despite the mixed results, virtually all studies found some correlation between obesity and mortality, whether cardiovascular diseases or type 2 diabetes.

Applying what we know about obesity and body composition, we can make safe suggestions that improving body composition is the best way to improve longevity, even if a person is described as metabolically healthy obese.

How to improve your body composition

To support longevity, you should increase lean mass and reduce fat mass. 

Your body needs a certain amount of fat to function correctly, but eliminating excessive fat will reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, inflammation, and other related mortality risks.

The best way to improve your body composition is to accurately measure and track your total lean mass and fat mass. You can do this by using a body composition analysis tool, such as Spren.

Habitually measure your body composition and adjust your nutrition and workout routine as needed to see results. 

Change won’t happen overnight, but if you stick with it, you can begin to eliminate excess fat mass, improve lean mass, and enhance your overall body composition. 

Use Spren to improve your body composition

If you’re interested in improving your body composition to increase longevity, then you can use Spren to measure your body composition accurately. 

Spren captures your body composition from your smartphone camera—it uses validated machine learning algorithms and computer vision to provide you with various insights that go beyond the scale. 

You can slow down your biological age, gain lean mass, reduce body fat, and improve cardio-metabolic health.

Try Spren to improve your body composition today.


  1. Fontana, L. and Hu, F.B., 2014. Optimal body weight for health and longevity: bridging basic, clinical, and population research. Aging cell, 13(3), pp.391-400.

  1. Franco, O.H., Peeters, A., Bonneux, L. and De Laet, C., 2005. Blood pressure in adulthood and life expectancy with cardiovascular disease in men and women: life course analysis. Hypertension, 46(2), pp.280-286.

  1. Han, S.S., Kim, K.W., Kim, K.I., Na, K.Y., Chae, D.W., Kim, S. and Chin, H.J., 2010. Lean mass index: a better predictor of mortality than body mass index in elderly Asians. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 58(2), pp.312-317.

  1. Hinnouho, G.M., Czernichow, S., Dugravot, A., Nabi, H., Brunner, E.J., Kivimaki, M. and Singh-Manoux, A., 2015. Metabolically healthy obesity and the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes: the Whitehall II cohort study. European heart journal, 36(9), pp.551-559.

  1. Ho-Pham, L.T., Nguyen, U.D. and Nguyen, T.V., 2014. Association between lean mass, fat mass, and bone mineral density: a meta-analysis. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 99(1), pp.30-38.

  1. Jackson, A.S. and Pollock, M.L., 1985. Practical assessment of body composition. The Physician and sportsmedicine, 13(5), pp.76-90.

  1. Kang, S.M., Yoon, J.W., Ahn, H.Y., Kim, S.Y., Lee, K.H., Shin, H., Choi, S.H., Park, K.S., Jang, H.C. and Lim, S., 2011. Android fat depot is more closely associated with metabolic syndrome than abdominal visceral fat in elderly people. PloS one, 6(11), p.e27694.

  1. Pi-Sunyer, X., 2009. The medical risks of obesity. Postgraduate Medicine, 121(6), pp.21-33.

  1. Roberson, L.L., Aneni, E.C., Maziak, W., Agatston, A., Feldman, T., Rouseff, M., Tran, T., Blaha, M.J., Santos, R.D., Sposito, A. and Al-Mallah, M.H., 2014. Beyond BMI: The “Metabolically healthy obese” phenotype & its association with clinical/subclinical cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality--a systematic review. BMC public health, 14(1), pp.1-12.

  1. Sedlmeier, A.M., Baumeister, S.E., Weber, A., Fischer, B., Thorand, B., Ittermann, T., Dörr, M., Felix, S.B., Völzke, H., Peters, A. and Leitzmann, M.F., 2021. Relation of body fat mass and fat-free mass to total mortality: results from 7 prospective cohort studies. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 113(3), pp.639-646.

  1. Toss, F., Wiklund, P., Nordström, P. and Nordström, A., 2012. Body composition and mortality risk in later life. Age and aging, 41(5), pp.677-681.

  1. Ward, Z.J., Bleich, S.N., Long, M.W. and Gortmaker, S.L., 2021. Association of body mass index with health care expenditures in the United States by age and sex. PloS one, 16(3), p.e0247307.

  1. Wiklund, P., Toss, F., Weinehall, L., Hallmans, G., Franks, P.W., Nordstrom, A. and Nordstrom, P., 2008. Abdominal and gynoid fat mass are associated with cardiovascular risk factors in men and women. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 93(11), pp.4360-4366.

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Matthew Mace

Matthew is a keen cyclist and freelance health and wellness content writer. He studied sport and exercise at Durham University and now writes for numerous active brands. When he's not writing or cycling, he can be found on the edge of his seat watching the Formula One.

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