Short Telomeres Linked With Increased Mortality Risk Over Six Year Period

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March 25, 2011

Shorter telomeres linked with increased mortality risk over six year period

Short telomeres linked with increased mortality risk over six year period

The April, 2011 issue of the Journal of Gerontology: Biological and Medical Sciences reports the finding of Annette L. Fitzpatrick of the University of Washington and her colleagues of an association between shorter telomere length and an increased risk of dying over 6.1 years of follow-up. Telomeres are protective caps at the ends of chromosomes which shorten as individual cells age. Leukocyte (white blood cell) telomere length has been associated with age, gender, and age-related diseases, yet its relationship with the risk of human mortality is uncertain.

The current study included 1,136 participants in the Cardiovascular Health Study of adults aged 65 and older. Blood samples obtained upon enrollment between 1992 and 1993 were analyzed for leukocyte telomere length. Cause was ascertained for 468 deaths that occurred over 6.1 years of follow-up.

Telomere length was reduced in association with increasing age, greater internal carotid intima-media thickness, former smoking status, elevated interleukin-6 and male gender. Adjusted analysis of the data found that subjects whose telomeres were among the shortest 25 percent of participants had a 60 percent greater risk of dying over follow-up compared with those whose telomeres were among the longest 25 percent. When deaths were analyzed by cause, infectious disease emerged as significantly associated with shorter telomeres, while cardiac arrhythmia was shown to have a weaker association.

"Our results of leukocyte telomere length and mortality corroborate the associations found between shorter leukocyte telomere length and risk of death in several other studies," the authors write. "Data strongly suggest that erosion of telomeres is the result of an accruing burden of oxidative stress and inflammation, which is known to be enhanced by exposure to infectious and inflammatory diseases. The significant relationship between leukocyte telomere length and interleukin-6, a biomarker of inflammation, found here and in our earlier study, supports this finding."

"This study, one of the largest to date to evaluate associations between leukocyte telomere length and mortality, provides additional evidence that leukocyte telomere length may be a proxy for underlying mechanisms that bring about pathophysiological changes in persons surviving to old age," they conclude.

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Health Concern Life Extension Highlight

Bacterial infections

Bacterial infections can be caused by a wide range of bacteria, resulting in mild to life-threatening illnesses (such as bacterial meningitis) that require immediate intervention. In the United States, bacterial infections are a leading cause of death in children and the elderly (Howard BJ et al 1994). Hospitalized patients and those with chronic diseases are at especially high risk of bacterial infection (Murray et al 1998). Common bacterial infections include pneumonia, ear infections, diarrhea, urinary tract infections, and skin disorders.

In addition to immune-boosting supplements, a number of nutrients have shown antibacterial activity, especially when it comes to inhibiting bacterial infection. While large-scale human studies have yet to be conducted on many antibacterial nutrients, the existing animal studies show considerable promise with these agents.

Before antibiotics, honey was used to treat bacterial wound infections ( Lusby PE et al 2002; Miorin PL et al 2003; Molan PC 2002). Bee propolis has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. In vitro laboratory studies have shown activity against TB, H. pylori, skin ulcers, and colitis (Boyanova L et al 2003; Dobrowolski JW et al 1991; Grange JM et al 1990).

Bromelain (a digestive enzyme derived from the pineapple plant) has been used for centuries as a folk remedy for digestive problems and to promote wound healing. It has been proposed as a digestive aid and also has shown immunomodulatory properties (Engwerda CR et al 2001). In animal studies, bromelain has been effective against E. coli by disrupting the bacteria's ability to adhere to the mucosal lining in the digestive wall (Mynott TL et al 1996, 1997).

Cranberry juice can be an effective therapy for bacterial urinary tract infections, both to manage infection and to reduce recurrence (Fleet JC 1994; Kontiokari T et al 2001). Cranberry supplements are also available.

Oregano oil has been used for centuries in Far Eastern and Middle Eastern cultures to treat respiratory infections, chronic inflammation, urinary tract infections, dysentery, and jaundice. Laboratory studies in which the oil was applied directly to food-borne pathogens showed that oregano oil has strong antibacterial properties (Dadalioglu I et al 2004). Medicinal oregano grows wild in the mountainous areas of Greece and Turkey. It has a high mineral content that enhances its therapeutic benefits, including calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, potassium, copper, boron, and manganese. This oil is considered safe for humans and may be used in conjunction with antibiotics to fight bacterial infection (Preuss HG et al 2005).

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