University of Oulu

Max J. Åström, Mikaela B. von Bonsdorff, Mia-Maria Perälä, Minna K. Salonen, Taina Rantanen, Eero Kajantie, Mika Simonen, Pertti Pohjolainen, Markus J. Haapanen, Maria A. Guzzardi, Patricia Iozzo, Hannu Kautiainen, Johan G. Eriksson, Telomere length and physical performance among older people—The Helsinki Birth Cohort Study, Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, Volume 183, 2019, 111145, ISSN 0047-6374,

Telomere length and physical performance among older people : the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study

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Author: Åström, Max J.1,2; von Bonsdorff, Mikaela B.2,3; Perälä, Mia-Maria2,4;
Organizations: 1Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital, Helsinki, Finland
2Folkhälsan Research Center, Helsinki, Finland
3Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences and Gerontology Research Center, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland
4Department of Public Health Solutions, Public Health Promotion Unit, National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland
5PEDEGO Research Unit, MRC Oulu, Oulu University Hospital and University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
6Department of Clinical and Molecular Medicine, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
7Hospital for Children and Adolescents, Helsinki University Central Hospital, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
8Faculty of Arts, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
9Age Institute, Helsinki, Finland
10Institute of Clinical Physiology, National Research Council (CNR), Pisa, Italy
11Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS), Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore
12Obstetrics & Gynecology, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, National University Health System, Singapore
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 2.4 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2019
Publish Date: 2020-09-03


Telomere length has been suggested a biomarker of aging and is associated with several chronic diseases. However, the association between telomere length and physical performance is not well known. Using both cross-sectional and longitudinal data, we studied 582 women and 453 men from the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study at two time-points; a baseline examination in 2001–2004 at a mean age of 61 years and a follow-up examination approximately 10 years later in 2011–2013. Telomere length was measured both at baseline and at follow-up using real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Physical performance was evaluated only at follow-up using the Senior Fitness Test (SFT), which assesses strength, flexibility and endurance. In women, shorter telomere length at follow-up (p = 0.044) and greater telomere attrition during follow-up time (p = 0.022) were associated with poorer physical performance after adjusting for covariates (age at baseline, smoking status, body mass index at baseline, follow-up time and educational attainment). No similar associations were found for men. This indicates that, at least in women, telomere length could potentially be used as a biomarker for physical performance, however, more longitudinal studies are needed to confirm this association.

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Series: Mechanisms of ageing and development
ISSN: 0047-6374
ISSN-E: 1872-6216
ISSN-L: 0047-6374
Volume: 183
Article number: 111145
DOI: 10.1016/j.mad.2019.111145
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3121 General medicine, internal medicine and other clinical medicine
Funding: This work was supported by Emil Aaltonen Foundation; Finnish Foundation for Cardiovascular Research; Finnish Foundation for Diabetes Research; Finnish Foundation for Pediatric Research; Juho Vainio Foundation; Novo Nordisk Foundation; Signe and Ane Gyllenberg Foundation; Samfundet Folkhälsan; Finska Läkaresällskapet; Liv och Hälsa; European Commission FP7 DORIAN [grant number 278603]; EU H2020-PHC-2014-DynaHealth [grant number 633595]; and Academy of Finland [grant numbers 257239 to MBvB, 127437 to EK, 129306 to EK, 130326 to EK, 134791 to EK, 263924 to EK, 274794 to EK, 129369 to JGE, 129907 to JGE, 135072 to JGE, 129255 to JGE, 126775 to JGE].
EU Grant Number: (633595) DYNAHEALTH - Understanding the dynamic determinants of glucose homeostasis and social capability to promote Healthy and active aging
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 129306
Detailed Information: 129306 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
130326 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
134791 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
263924 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © 2019 Published by Elsevier B.V. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license