The epigenomic marker global DNA methylation is related to measures of body composition and aerobic capacity in females but not in males

Document Type



Elevated global DNA methylation has been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). The purpose of this investigation was to determine the relationship between global DNA methylation and alterable risk factors for CVD, specifically body composition and aerobic fitness. Fifty-two healthy subjects (male n=27, female n=28) completed a graded exercise test and a Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) scan. DNA was isolated from peripheral blood leukocytes and percent global DNA methylation was quantified via ELISA containing the 5-methylcytosine antibody. Correlation coefficients determined the relationship between body composition, fitness measurements, and global DNA methylation percentage. High and low value groups for each variable were constructed and global DNA methylation percentage compared for differences using independent t-tests. Significance was accepted at α = 0.05. We report for the first time that global DNA methylation is significantly positively correlated with aerobic fitness in females (r = 0.39, p = 0.04). Regarding percent body fat we found a significant negative correlation with global DNA methylation in women (r = -0.43, p = 0.02), and differences between the high and low median groups in men (% methylation high body fat = 1.2±0.8, % methylation low body fat = 2.6±1.5, p = 0.001). Our findings confirm gender differences in global DNA methylation extend to the influences of aerobic fitness and a direct measure of body composition. These findings suggest that global DNA methylation may be an appropriate marker for cardiovascular disease risk in females.