Background: Vitamin D is a potent inhibitor of the proinflammatory response and thereby diminishes turnover of leukocytes. Leukocyte telomere length (LTL) is a predictor of aging-related disease and decreases with each cell cycle and increased inflammation.
Objective: The objective of the study was to examine whether vitamin D concentrations would attenuate the rate of telomere attrition in leukocytes, such that higher vitamin D concentrations would be associated with longer LTL.
Design: Serum vitamin D concentrations were measured in 2160 women aged 18–79 y (mean age: 49.4) from a large population-based cohort of twins. LTL was measured by using the Southern blot method.
Results: Age was negatively correlated with LTL (r = −0.40, P < 0.0001). Serum vitamin D concentrations were positively associated with LTL (r = 0.07, P = 0.0010), and this relation persisted after adjustment for age (r = 0.09, P < 0.0001) and other covariates (age, season of vitamin D measurement, menopausal status, use of hormone replacement therapy, and physical activity; P for trend across tertiles = 0.003). The difference in LTL between the highest and lowest tertiles of vitamin D was 107 base pairs (P = 0.0009), which is equivalent to 5.0 y of telomeric aging. This difference was further accentuated by increased concentrations of C-reactive protein, which is a measure of systemic inflammation.
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that higher vitamin D concentrations, which are easily modifiable through nutritional supplementation, are associated with longer LTL, which underscores the potentially beneficial effects of this hormone on aging and age-related diseases.