Familial longevity is marked by lower diurnal salivary cortisol levels: The Leiden longevity study

Raymond Noordam, Steffy W M Jansen, Abimbola A. Akintola, Nicole Y L Oei, Nicole Y L Oei, Nicole Y L Oei, Andrea B. Maier, Andrea B. Maier, Hanno Pijl, P. Eline Slagboom, P. Eline Slagboom, Rudi G J Westendorp, Rudi G J Westendorp, Jeroen van der Grond, Anton J M de Craen, Anton J M de Craen, Diana van Heemst, Diana van Heemst

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Reported findings are inconsistent whether hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) signaling becomes hyperactive with increasing age, resulting in increasing levels of cortisol. Our previous research strongly suggests that offspring from long-lived families are biologically younger. In this study we assessed whether these offspring have a lower HPA axis activity, as measured by lower levels of cortisol and higher cortisol feedback sensitivity. Methods: Salivary cortisol levels were measured at four time points within the first hour upon awakening and at two time points in the evening in a cohort comprising 149 offspring and 154 partners from the Leiden Longevity Study. A dexamethasone suppression test was performed as a measure of cortisol feedback sensitivity. Age, gender and body mass index, smoking and disease history (type 2 diabetes and hypertension) were considered as possible confounding factors. Results: Salivary cortisol secretion was lower in offspring compared to partners in the morning (Area Under the Curve = 15.6 versus 17.1 nmol/L, respectively; p = 0.048) and in the evening (Area Under the Curve = 3.32 versus 3.82 nmol/L, respectively; p = 0.024). Salivary cortisol levels were not different after dexamethasone (0.5 mg) suppression between offspring and partners (4.82 versus 5.26 nmol/L, respectively; p = 0.28). Conclusion: Offspring of nonagenarian siblings are marked by a lower HPA axis activity (reflected by lower diurnal salivary cortisol levels), but not by a difference in cortisol feedback sensitivity. Further in-depth studies aimed at characterizing the HPA axis in offspring and partners are needed.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere31166
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 13 Feb 2012


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