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Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Jan;103(1):178-83. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.116806. Epub 2015 Dec 16.

Leukocyte telomere length is related to appendicular lean mass: cross-sectional data from the Berlin Aging Study II (BASE-II).

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Charité Research Group on Geriatrics and.
Charité Research Group on Geriatrics and Institute of Medical and Human Genetics, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
Charité Research Group on Geriatrics and



Age-related progressive loss of muscle mass is an increasing problem in our aging society, affecting physical ability, risk of falls, and need for health care. Telomere length has been recognized as a marker of biological age on the population level. The relation between muscle mass in advanced age and telomere length, however, has rarely been examined.


We evaluated the relation between appendicular lean mass (ALM) and relative leukocyte telomere length (rLTL) in 1398 participants of the Berlin Aging Study II (mean ± SD age: 68.2 ± 3.7 y; 49.6% men).


rLTL was determined by real-time polymerase chain reaction. Lean mass was estimated by dual X-ray absorptiometry and examined as leg lean mass (LLM), ALM, and the ratio of ALM to body mass index (ALMBMI).


Weak, but highly significant (P < 0.001), correlations of rLTL with ALM (r = 0.248), ALMBMI (r = 0.254), and LLM (r = 0.263) were found. In the fully adjusted model that included age, BMI, low-grade inflammation, lifestyle factors, and morbidities as potential confounders, rLTL was associated with ALM (β = 1.11, SEM = 0.46, P = 0.017), LLM (β = 1.20, SEM = 0.36, P = 0.001), and ALMBMI (β = 0.04, SEM = 0.02, P = 0.013) in men and with LLM in women (β = 0.78, SEM = 0.35, P = 0.026).


Our results suggest that short telomeres may be a risk factor for lower ALM, particularly for low LLM. To confirm the association between telomere attrition and loss of LLM and ALMBMI, which are highly relevant for physical ability, further research in a longitudinal context is needed. The medical portion of this trial was registered in the German Clinical Trials Registry ( as DRKS00009277.


BASE-II; appendicular lean mass; leukocytes; muscle mass; sarcopenia; telomere length

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