Background: Recently, epigenetic age acceleration-or older epigenetic age in comparison to chronological age-has been robustly associated with mortality and various morbidities. However, accelerated epigenetic aging has not been widely investigated in relation to inflammatory or metabolic markers, including postprandial lipids.

Methods: We estimated measures of epigenetic age acceleration in 830 Caucasian participants from the Genetics Of Lipid Lowering Drugs and diet Network (GOLDN) considering two epigenetic age calculations based on differing sets of 5′-Cytosine-phosphate-guanine-3′ genomic site, derived from the Horvath and Hannum DNA methylation age calculators, respectively. GOLDN participants underwent a standardized high-fat meal challenge after fasting for at least 8 h followed by timed blood draws, the last being 6 h postmeal. We used adjusted linear mixed models to examine the association of the epigenetic age acceleration estimate with fasting and postprandial (0- and 6-h time points) low-density lipoprotein (LDL), high-density lipoprotein (HDL), and triglyceride (TG) levels as well as five fasting inflammatory markers plus adiponectin.

Results: Both DNA methylation age estimates were highly correlated with chronological age (r > 0.90). We found that the Horvath and Hannum measures of epigenetic age acceleration were moderately correlated (r = 0.50). The regression models revealed that the Horvath age acceleration measure exhibited marginal associations with increased postprandial HDL (p = 0.05), increased postprandial total cholesterol (p = 0.06), and decreased soluble interleukin 2 receptor subunit alpha (IL2sRα, p = 0.02). The Hannum measure of epigenetic age acceleration was inversely associated with fasting HDL (p = 0.02) and positively associated with postprandial TG (p = 0.02), interleukin-6 (IL6, p = 0.007), C-reactive protein (C-reactive protein, p = 0.0001), and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα, p = 0.0001). Overall, the observed effect sizes were small and the association of the Hannum residual with inflammatory markers was attenuated by adjustment for estimated T cell type percentages.

Conclusions: Our study demonstrates that epigenetic age acceleration in blood relates to inflammatory biomarkers and certain lipid classes in Caucasian individuals of the GOLDN study. Future studies should consider epigenetic age acceleration in other tissues and extend the analysis to other ethnic groups.

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Published in Clinical Epigenetics, v. 10, 56, p. 1-9.

© The Author(s). 2018

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This research was funded by the US National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute grants U01 HL072524 and R01 HL104135.

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The datasets used and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.