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The association of sarcopenia, telomere length, and mortality: data from the NHANES 1999–2002

Abstract

Background/objectives

Sarcopenia is defined as the loss of muscle mass or function with aging and is associated with adverse outcomes. Telomere shortening is associated with mortality, yet its relationship with sarcopenia is unknown.

Subjects/methods

Adults ≥60 years from the 1999–2002 NHANES with body composition measures were identified. Sarcopenia was defined using the two Foundation for the National Institute of Health definitions: appendicular lean mass (ALM) (men <19.75; women <15.02 kg); or ALM divided by body mass index (BMI) (ALM:BMI, men <0.789; women <0.512). Telomere length was assessed using quantitative PCR. Regression models predicted telomere length with sarcopenia (referent = no sarcopenia).

Results

We identified 2672 subjects. Mean age was 70.9 years (55.5% female). Prevalence of ALM and ALM:BMI sarcopenia was 29.2 and 22.1%. Deaths were higher in persons with sarcopenia as compared to those without sarcopenia (ALM: 46.4 vs. 33.4%, p < 0.001; ALM:BMI: 46.7 vs. 33.2%, p < 0.001). No adjusted differences were observed in telomere length in those with/without sarcopenia (ALM: 0.90 vs. 0.92, p = 0.74, ALM:BMI 0.89 vs. 0.92, p = 0.24). In men with ALM:BMI-defined sarcopenia, adjusted telomere length was significantly lower compared to men without sarcopenia (0.85 vs. 0.91, p = 0.013). With sarcopenia, we did not observe a significant association between telomere length and mortality (ALM: HR 1.11 [0.64,1.82], p = 0.68; ALM:BMI: HR 0.97 [0.53,1.77], p = 0.91), but noted significance in those without sarcopenia with mortality (ALM: HR 0.59 [0.40,0.86], p = 0.007; ALM:BMI: HR 0.62 [0.42,0.91]; p = 0.01).

Conclusions

We observed a potentially inverse relationship between telomere length and mortality in those without sarcopenia but did not observe a significant relationship between telomere length and mortality in the presence of sarcopenia.

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Funding

J.A.B.’s research reported in this publication was supported in part by the National Institute On Aging of the National Institutes of Health under award number K23AG051681. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. Support was also provided by the Dartmouth Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research Center supported by Cooperative Agreement Number U48DP005018 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The findings and conclusions in this journal article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. J.A.B. received funding from Health Resources Services Administration (UB4HP19206-01-00) for medical geriatric teaching, the Junior Faculty Career Development Award, the Department of Medicine, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, and the Dartmouth Centers for Health and Aging. P.L.R. received funding from the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Aging Resource Center. S.J.B. received funding from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH: T32 MH073553, R01 MH102325, R01 MH104555; CDC U48DP005018, HRSA U1QHP28718, HRSA T32 HP300360100); T.A.M. did not receive any funding; R.T.E. is supported by The Dartmouth Clinical and Translational Science Institute, under award number UL1TR001086 from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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Correspondence to John A. Batsis.

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Work to be presented at the 2017 International Association of Geriatrics and Gerontology, San Francisco, CA, July 2017

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Rippberger, P.L., Emeny, R.T., Mackenzie, T.A. et al. The association of sarcopenia, telomere length, and mortality: data from the NHANES 1999–2002. Eur J Clin Nutr 72, 255–263 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41430-017-0011-z

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