BACKGROUND: Shorter telomere length (TL) is associated with risk of several age-related diseases and decreased life span, but the extent to which dietary patterns and practices associate with TL is uncertain. OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to investigate the association of dietary patterns and practices and leucocyte TL (LTL). DESIGN: This was a cross-sectional study. PARTICIPANTS AND SETTING: Data collected voluntarily from up to 422,797 UK Biobank participants, during 2006-2010. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: LTL was measured as a ratio of the telomere repeat number to a single-copy gene and was loge-transformed and standardized (z-LTL). STATISTICAL ANALYSES PERFORMED: Adherence a priori to a Mediterranean-style diet was assessed through the MedDietScore. Principal component analysis was used to a posteriori extract the "Meat" and "Prudent" dietary patterns. Additional dietary practices considered were the self-reported adherence to "Vegetarian" diet, "Eating 5-a-day of fruit and vegetables" and "Abstaining from eggs/dairy/wheat/sugar." Associations between quintiles of dietary patterns or adherence to dietary practices with z-LTL were investigated through multivariable linear regression models (adjusted for demographic, lifestyle, and clinical characteristics). RESULTS: Adherence to the "Mediterranean" and the "Prudent" patterns, was positively associated with LTL, with an effect magnitude in z-LTL of 0.020 SD and 0.014 SD, respectively, for the highest vs the lowest quintile of adherence to the pattern (both P values < 0.05). Conversely, a reversed association between quintile of the "Meat" pattern and LTL was observed, with z-LTL being on average shorter by 0.025 SD (P = 6.12×10-05) for participants in the highest quintile of the pattern compared with the lowest quintile. For adherents to "5-a-day" z-LTL was on average longer by 0.027 SD (P = 5.36×10-09), and for "abstainers," LTL was shorter by 0.016 SD (P = 2.51×10-04). The association of LTL with a vegetarian diet was nonsignificant after adjustment for demographic, lifestyle, and clinical characteristics. CONCLUSIONS: Several dietary patterns and practices associated with beneficial health effects are significantly associated with longer LTL. However, the magnitude of the association was small, and any clinical relevance is uncertain.



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Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics





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Peninsula Medical School