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Older men with higher sex hormone levels have lower biological age

Older men who have higher levels of sex hormones tend to have a lower biological age, according to a new study published by the Endocrine Society. The researchers found that this was particularly the case among men with higher amounts of the estradiol form of estrogen.

Study lead author Bu Yeap is a professor at the University of Western Australia‘s medical school in Perth.

“As populations grow older and sicker, identifying pathways to healthier aging is important,” said Professor Yeap. “Sex hormones such as testosterone and its active metabolite, estradiol, may reflect or possibly determine biological youth.”

Individuals can age more slowly than their actual chronological age, and decreased biological aging is associated with healthier and longer lifespans. Telomeres are compound structures located at the end of chromosomes that shorten as we age, which means that they can be used to assess an individual’s biological age.

Previous studies have shown that telomeres can be shortened by stress, smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, and poor diet. Professor Yeap said that the effect of sex hormones on telomeres was uncertain, and his team set out to investigate by analyzing data from 2,913 men between 70 and 89 years old.

Using a molecular biology method called quantitative polymerase chain reaction, the team measured telomeres in DNA from white blood cells. Sex hormones were measured in blood samples with a technique called mass spectrometry.

The experts discovered that the higher the estradiol level, the longer the telomeres were likely to be, which indicated a lower biological age. This effect was consistent regardless of the actual age, lifestyle factors, and existing medical conditions among the men. Professor Yeap emphasized that the study results represent a link, but not necessarily a cause.

“Our finding will facilitate future studies aimed at preserving health in the growing demographic of aging men,” said Professor Yeap. “If future research finds that sex hormone exposure modulates biological aging in men, we would need to test the effect on biological age of giving men testosterone, which is then converted to estradiol. The optimal blood level of estradiol in older men also would need to be determined.”

The research will be presented at ENDO 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The study is published in the journal Clinical Endocrinology.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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