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Sarcopenic obesity is associated with telomere shortening: findings from the NHANES 1999–2002

Goddard, Thomas; Tsintzas, Kostas; Stephan, Blossom C.M.; Prado, Carla M.; Mazidi, Mohsen; Siervo, Mario

Sarcopenic obesity is associated with telomere shortening: findings from the NHANES 1999–2002 Thumbnail


Thomas Goddard

Professor of Human Physiology

Blossom C.M. Stephan

Carla M. Prado

Mohsen Mazidi

Mario Siervo


Sarcopenic obesity (SO) is characterised by the concurrent presence of sarcopenia and excess adiposity. Telomere shortening has been associated with sarcopenia and obesity alone but the association between SO and telomere length (TL) has not been investigated. This study aimed to investigate SO and TL in an adult population. Data were from 5397 individuals (mean age = 44.7 years, 51.3% male) enrolled in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Body composition (BC) was assessed by Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry. Two models were used to assess SO: a BC model including four phenotypes derived from the combination of high or low adiposity and muscle mass; and, a truncal fat mass to appendicular skeletal mass ratio (TrFM/ASM). TL was assessed using quantitative polymerase chain reaction and expressed as base pairs. The mean TL, relative to the reference DNA, was calculated and expressed as the mean T/S ratio. A General Linear Model was applied to determine associations between TL for SO. In adjusted analysis, only individuals with SO, defined as the presence of high adiposity-low muscle mass (four-phenotype model), had significantly shorter telomeres (p = 0.05) than the reference group (i.e. low adiposity-high muscle mass), with a mean T/S ratio of 1.02 (95%CI: 0.98–1.05) compared to 1.05 (95%CI: 1.01–1.09), respectively. TrFM/ASM was not associated with TL. Preliminary findings suggest that sarcopenia and obesity may act synergistically to shorten telomeres.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 11, 2021
Online Publication Date Nov 4, 2021
Publication Date Nov 4, 2021
Deposit Date Nov 5, 2021
Publicly Available Date Nov 5, 2021
Journal International Journal of Obesity
Print ISSN 0307-0565
Electronic ISSN 1476-5497
Publisher Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 46
Pages 437–440
Keywords Nutrition and Dietetics; Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism; Medicine (miscellaneous)
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