Plasma lipidome variation during the second half of the human lifespan is associated with age and sex but minimally with BMI

PLoS One. 2019 Mar 20;14(3):e0214141. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0214141. eCollection 2019.


Recent advances in mass spectrometry-based techniques have inspired research into lipidomics, a subfield of '-omics', which aims to identify and quantify large numbers of lipids in biological extracts. Although lipidomics is becoming increasingly popular as a screening tool for understanding disease mechanisms, it is largely unknown how the lipidome naturally varies by age and sex in healthy individuals. We aimed to identify cross-sectional associations of the human lipidome with 'physiological' ageing, using plasma from 100 subjects with an apolipoprotein E (APOE) E3/E3 genotype, and aged between 56 to 100 years. Untargeted analysis was performed by liquid chromatography coupled-mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) and data processing using LipidSearch software. Regression analyses confirmed a strong negative association of age with the levels of various lipid, which was stronger in males than females. Sex-related differences include higher LDL-C, HDL-C, total cholesterol, particular sphingomyelins (SM), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)-containing phospholipid levels in females. Surprisingly, we found a minimal relationship between lipid levels and body mass index (BMI). In conclusion, our results suggest substantial age and sex-related variation in the plasma lipidome of healthy individuals during the second half of the human lifespan. In particular, globally low levels of blood lipids in the 'oldest old' subjects over 95 years could signify a unique lipidome associated with extreme longevity.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / blood*
  • Aging / genetics
  • Female
  • Genotype*
  • Humans
  • Lipidomics
  • Lipids / blood*
  • Lipids / genetics
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Factors


  • Lipids

Grant support

This work was supported by a National Health & Medical Research Council of Australia Program Grant (APP1054544). M.W.W. is the recipient of an Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) from the Australian Commonwealth Government. N.B. is the recipient of the Australian Research Council Postdoctoral Research Fellowship. The authors thank the Rebecca Cooper Medical Research Foundation for their ongoing financial support. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.