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Master athletes have longer telomeres than age-matched non-athletes. A systematic review, meta-analysis and discussion of possible mechanisms.

Aguiar, Samuel S and Sousa, Caio V and Santos, Patrick A and Barbosa, Lucas P and Maciel, Larissa Alves and Coelho-Júnior, Hélio J and Motta-Santos, Daisy and Rosa, Thiago Santos and Degens, Hans and Simões, Herbert G (2020) Master athletes have longer telomeres than age-matched non-athletes. A systematic review, meta-analysis and discussion of possible mechanisms. Experimental Gerontology. p. 111212. ISSN 0531-5565

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Abstract

The aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was 1) to assess whether master athletes have longer telomeres than age-matched non-athletes and 2) discuss possible underlying mechanisms underlying telomere length preservation in master athletes. A literature search was performed in PubMed, Web of Science, Scopus and SPORTDiscus up to August 2020. Only original articles published in peer-reviewed journals that compared telomere length between master athletes and aged-matched non-athletes were included. Eleven studies fulfilled eligibility criteria and were included in the final analysis. Overall, 240 master athletes (51.9±7.5 years) and 209 age-matched non-athletes (50.1±9.1 years) were analyzed. Master athletes had been participating in high-level competitions for approximately 16.6 years. Pooled analyses revealed that master athletes had longer telomeres than aged-matched non-athletes (SMD=0.89; 95% CI=0.45 to 1.33; p<0.001). Master athletes showed lower pro-oxidant damage (SMD=0.59; 95% CI=0.26 to 0.91; p<0.001) and higher antioxidant capacity (SMD=-0.46; 95% CI=-0.89 to -0.03; p=0.04) than age-matched non-athletes. Further, greater telomere length in master athletes is associated with lower oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, and enhanced shelterin protein expression and telomerase activity. In conclusion, 1) master athletes have longer telomeres than age-matched non-athletes, which may be the result of 2) lower levels of oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, and elevated shelterin expression and telomerase activity.

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