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

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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


Cite this

Noordam, R., Jansen, S. W. M., Akintola, A. A., Oei, N. Y. L., Oei, N. Y. L., Oei, N. Y. L., ... van Heemst, D. (2012). Familial longevity is marked by lower diurnal salivary cortisol levels: The Leiden longevity study. PLoS ONE, 7(2), [e31166]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0031166