Although it is known that children with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) have higher fat mass than children without the autoimmune disease, no published data exists pertaining to SLE patients’ body composition, endurance, or strength. In a pilot study, Dr. Kevin R. Fontaine, professor and chair in the department of health behavior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and lead author Dr. Sangeeta Sule, associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, measured the body composition, cardiovascular endurance, and muscle strength of 10 children with lupus.
[Photo: Dr. Kevin R. Fontaine]
The mean age of the subjects was 15.5 years, and 90 percent were female. A total of 89 percent of the female participants had a higher than recommended level of body fat than norms for their age, and 40 percent of all subjects had lower levels of muscle mass than recommended norms for their gender and/or age.
In addition, those with renal disease were even more likely to have low muscle mass compared with those without renal disease. Tests of cardiovascular endurance, estimated using maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max) during cycle ergometry, showed that all subjects scored less than fifth percentile for VO2max compared with normative data for their age and gender. With regard to strength, only one male subject reached goal percentiles for age and gender.
Overall, pediatric lupus patients have more body fat, lower endurance, and less muscle compared with age and gender norms. Therefore, the investigators underscore the importance of recommending exercise programs to improve these important indicators of health and longevity.
“Abnormal Body Composition, Cardiovascular Endurance, and Muscle Strength in Pediatric SLE” was published in September 2016 in the Pediatric Rheumatology Online Journal.