Association between telomere length, frailty and death in older adults.

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Frailty is considered a clinical marker of functional ageing. Telomere length (TL) has been proposed as a biomarker of biological age but its role in human ageing is controversial. The main aim of the study was to evaluate the longitudinal association of TL with incident frailty and mortality in two cohorts of Spanish community–dwelling older adults. TL was determined at baseline in blood samples from older adults included in Toledo Study for Healthy Aging and ENRICA cohorts while frailty was determined by frailty phenotype (FP) at baseline and at follow-up (3.5 years). Deaths occurring during follow-up were also recorded. Associations of TL with frailty and mortality were analysed by logistic regression with progressive adjustment. Data were separately analysed in the two cohorts and in all subjects by performing a meta-analysis. TL was not different between frail and non-frail subjects. Longer telomeres were not associated with lower risk of prevalent frailty. Similarly, TL at baseline failed to predict incident frailty (OR: 1.04 [0.88–1.23]) or even the development of a new FP criterion (OR: 0.97 [0.90–1.05]) at follow-up. Lack of association was also observed when analysing the development of specific FP criteria. Finally, while frailty at baseline was significantly associated with higher risk of death at follow-up (OR: 4.08 [1.97–8.43], p < 0.001), TL did not significantly change the mortality risk (OR: 1.05 [0.94–1.16]). Results show that TL does not predict incident frailty or mortality in older adults. This suggests that TL is not a reliable biomarker of functional age.

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Ageing, Telomere, Functional decline, Frailty, Mortality, Biomarker