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Childhood intelligence attenuates the association between biological ageing and health outcomes in later life

By Anna Stevenson, Daniel L. McCartney, Robert F. Hillary, Paul Redmond, Adele M. Taylor, Qian Zhang, Allan F. McRae, Tara L Spires-Jones, Andrew M. McIntosh, Ian J Deary, Riccardo E. Marioni

Posted 25 Mar 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/588293

The identification of biomarkers that discriminate individual ageing trajectories is a principal target in ageing research. Some of the most promising predictors of biological ageing have been developed using DNA methylation. One recent candidate, which tracks age-related phenotypes in addition to chronological age, is 'DNAm PhenoAge'. Here, we performed a phenome-wide association analysis of this biomarker in a cohort of older adults to assess its relationship with a comprehensive set of both historical and contemporaneously-measured phenotypes. Higher than expected DNAm PhenoAge compared to chronological age, known as epigenetic age acceleration, was found to associate with a number of blood, cognitive, physical fitness and lifestyle variables, and with mortality. Notably, DNAm PhenoAge, assessed at age 70, was associated with cognitive ability at age 11, and with educational attainment. Adjusting for age 11 cognitive ability attenuated the majority of the cross-sectional later-life associations between DNAm PhenoAge and health outcomes. These results highlight the importance of early-life factors on healthy ageing.

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