Higher serum phenylalanine concentration is associated with more rapid telomere shortening in men.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Jan ;105(1):144-150. Epub 2016 Nov 23. PMID: 27881392
Johan G Eriksson
BACKGROUND: Telomere length and telomere shortening are associated with age-related health outcomes. Only a few studies have been able to longitudinally report on factors that are associated with changes in telomere length in an aging population.
OBJECTIVE: We studied the longitudinal relation between telomere length, the change in telomere length, and circulating amino acids.
DESIGN: A total of 812 subjects from the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study (born from 1934 to 1944), who underwent 3 clinical visits during a 10-y interval that included measurements of cardiometabolic risk factors, were included in the study. Leukocyte telomere length (LTL) was measured with the use of quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. Circulating branched-chain and aromatic amino acids (alanine, glycine, histidine, phenylalanine, leucine, isoleucine, valine, and tyrosine) were assessed with the use of high-throughput nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.
RESULTS: The relative± SD LTL at a mean age of 71 y was 0.79 ± 0.27 in men and 0.89 ± 0.35 in women (P<0.001). Of the studied amino acids, the strongest inverse association was observed between the phenylalanine concentration that was measured 5 y earlier and the LTL. This finding was significant in men (P = 0.021) and remained significant after adjustment for multiple comparisons, but it was not significant in women (P = 0.39). Longitudinally, the change in LTL over 10 y was inversely associated with the phenylalanine concentration in men (P = 0.007) but not in women (P = 0.58) after adjustment for baseline LTL, age, smoking, and percentage of body fat.
CONCLUSIONS: The serum phenylalanine concentration is associated with telomere length and, therefore, potentially with the aging process. Because the associations reported are observational, no conclusions can be made regarding causality. Our findings support the hypothesis that cellular pathways that regulate aging are sex specific.