Telomere length (TL) has been proposed as a biomarker of ageing, which might be used to identify individuals at higher risk of age-related diseases. Obesity is a well-known risk factor for several diseases. This study aims to analyse the associations of BMI with TL and the rate of TL change in older adults.
Leukocyte TL (LTL) was measured by quantitative PCR in blood samples of 3600 older adults aged 50-75years obtained at the baseline examination of a population-based cohort study in Germany. For longitudinal analyses, measurements were repeated in blood samples obtained at 8-year follow-up from 1000 participants. Multivariate linear regression models were used to estimate associations of BMI with LTL and changes in LTL over time.
LTL was inversely associated with age (r=-0.090, p<0.0001). BMI and LTL associations varied according to age (p for interaction=0.021). BMI was significantly inversely associated with LTL in those younger than 60years (-6basepairs per 1kg/m(2) difference in BMI). In particular, weight gain during adulthood was inversely associated with LTL in a dose-response manner in this age group, with those having gained ≥30kg having significantly shorter telomeres (-209basepairs) than those who maintained their weight. No clear patterns were observed between any of BMI-related variables and the rate of LTL change.
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Our cross-sectional analysis supports suggestions that weight gain during adulthood and obesity may contribute to shorter telomere length below 60years of age, but this relationship could not be shown longitudinally.