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Mech Ageing Dev. 2012 Jun;133(6):373-7. doi: 10.1016/j.mad.2012.04.003. Epub 2012 Apr 25.

Telomere length, oxidative stress, and antioxidant status in elderly men in Zutphen and Crete.

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NUTRIM School for Nutrition, Toxicology and Metabolism, Department of Toxicology, Maastricht University Medical Centre+, Maastricht, The Netherlands.


The incidence of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases is lower in Mediterranean Southern Europe than Northern Europe. This may be due to a lower level of oxidative stress and a higher antioxidant status in people living around the Mediterranean Sea. Oxidative stress may influence the rate of shortening of telomeres, the nucleoprotein structures at the ends of chromosomes. We compared leukocyte telomere length (LTL) in elderly men from Northern and Southern Europe and investigated the possible relationship between LTL and indicators of oxidative stress and antioxidant status. We examined 143 elderly Dutch men (mean age 83.9 years) and 109 Greek elderly men (mean age 84.6 years) and found that the Greek men had significantly longer telomeres (geometric mean 4.95 kbp, 95% confidence interval (CI): 4.71-5.23 kbp) compared to the men from the Netherlands (4.76 kbp, 95% CI: 4.55-4.98 kbp; P=0.001). Age was inversely associated with LTL (β=-0.10, P=0.31 in Cretan men and β=-0.19, P=0.02 in Dutch men). In all men LTL was not related to indicators of oxidative stress and plasma antioxidants. However, the endogenous antioxidants serum albumin (β=0.18, P=0.007) and uric acid (β=0.13, P=0.045) were positively associated with LTL. The age-adjusted difference between Crete and Zutphen was reduced by 25% after adjustment for serum albumin and uric acid. We conclude that Greek elderly men have significantly longer LTL compared to Dutch counterparts. The endogenous antioxidants albumin and uric acid were positively associated with longer telomeres.

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