Baseline Telomere Length and Effects of a Multidomain Lifestyle Intervention on Cognition: The FINGER Randomized Controlled Trial

J Alzheimers Dis. 2017;59(4):1459-1470. doi: 10.3233/JAD-170123.


Leukocyte telomere length (LTL) is a biomarker of aging, and it is associated with lifestyle. It is currently unknown whether LTL is associated with the response to lifestyle interventions. The goal is to assess whether baseline LTL modified the cognitive benefits of a 2-year multidomain lifestyle intervention (exploratory analyses). The Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER) was a 2-year randomized controlled trial including 1,260 people at risk of cognitive decline, aged 60-77 years identified from the general population. Participants were randomly assigned to the lifestyle intervention (diet, exercise, cognitive training, and vascular risk management) and control (general health advice) groups. Primary outcome was change in cognition (comprehensive neuropsychological test battery). Secondary outcomes were changes in cognitive domains: memory, executive functioning, and processing speed. 775 participants (392 control, 383 intervention) had baseline LTL (peripheral blood DNA). Mixed effects regression models with maximum likelihood estimation were used to analyze change in cognition as a function of randomization group, time, baseline LTL, and their interaction. Intervention and control groups did not significantly differ at baseline. Shorter LTL was related to less healthy baseline lifestyle. Intervention benefits on executive functioning were more pronounced among those with shorter baseline LTL (p-value for interaction was 0.010 adjusted for age and sex, and 0.007 additionally adjusted for baseline lifestyle factors). The FINGER intervention cognitive benefits were more pronounced with shorter baseline LTL, particularly for executive functioning, indicating that the multidomain lifestyle intervention was especially beneficial among higher-risk individuals.

Keywords: Cognition; dementia; lifestyle; multidomain intervention; telomere length.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / complications*
  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Disabled Persons / rehabilitation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / physiology*
  • Life Style*
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Telomere / pathology
  • Telomere / physiology*