Telomeres, DNA-protein structures that cap and protect chromosomes, are thought to shorten more rapidly when exposed to chronic inflammation and oxidative stress. Diet and nutritional status may be a source of inflammation and oxidative stress. However, relationships between telomere length (TL) and diet or adiposity have primarily been studied cross-sectionally among older, overweight/obese populations and yielded inconsistent results. Little is known about the relationship between diet or body composition and TL among younger, low- to normal-weight populations. It also remains unclear how cumulative exposure to a specific diet or body composition during the years of growth and development, when telomere attrition is most rapid, may be related to TL in adulthood.
In a sample of 1459 young adult Filipinos, we assessed the relationship between blood TL at ages 20.8-22.5 and measures of BMI z-score, waist circumference, and diet collected between the ages of 8.5 and 22.5. TL was measured using monochrome multiplex quantitative PCR, and diet was measured using multiple 24-h recalls.
We found no associations between blood TL and any of the measures of adiposity or between blood TL and the seven dietary factors examined: processed meats, fried/grilled meats and fish, non-fried fish, coconut oil, fruits and vegetables, bread and bread products, and sugar-sweetened beverages.
Considering the inconsistencies in the literature and our null results, small differences in body composition and consumption of any single pro- or anti-inflammatory dietary component may not by themselves have a meaningful impact on telomere integrity, or the impact may differ across distinct ecological circumstances.