School of Public Health

Hilary Bethancourt

Association between Longitudinally Assessed Dietary Composition and Blood Telomere Length among Young Adult Filipinos

Diet and nutrition are known to play a pivotal role in the onset and progression of aging-related diseases, but it remains unclear how diet and nutrition influence aging processes in general. Telomeres, the nucleotide sequences that protect linear chromosome ends from degradation, are considered a biomarker of aging. Evidence that oxidative stress and inflammation can accelerate telomere attrition suggests that nutritional factors may impact telomere length (TL) and, hence, aging by either contributing to or protecting against oxidative and inflammatory processes. However, previous studies have produced inconsistent results on the relationship between TL and diet or nutritional status. Most studies have been cross-sectional and have been conducted among older adult Western populations. This study aimed to explore the association between longitudinally-assessed diet and adiposity measures and TL among a young Filipino population. Specifically, it tested the hypotheses that 1) processed meats, fried or grilled meats, coconut oil, and non-diet soda are each inversely associated with TL; 2) fish and fruit and vegetable consumption are positively associated with TL; 3) body mass index is associated with TL in a curvilinear fashion; and 4) height-adjusted waist circumference is inversely associated with TL. Contrary to all hypotheses, the data provided no evidence of an association between TL and any of the dietary factors of interest or either of the measures of adiposity. These results contrast with some previous studies but align with others. The lack of associations may have been due to the young age of the population, low caloric intake, low consumption of some of the food groups of interest, low levels of adiposity, population differences in anti-inflammatory regulatory networks, and/or methodological and statistical power limitations. Further research with non-Western populations of different ages is warranted in order to elucidate the reasons for inconsistent evidence across studies and populations. Future studies should ideally include multiple longitudinal measurements of diet, body composition, TL, and other markers of biological aging.