Dietary restraint and telomere length in pre- and postmenopausal women

Psychosom Med. 2008 Oct;70(8):845-9. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e318187d05e.


Background: Leukocyte telomere shortening can serve as a biomarker of aging, as telomere length (TL) can decline with age and shortening is positively associated with morbidity and mortality. It is therefore important to identify psychological and behavioral factors linked to accelerated telomere shortening. Stress and poorer metabolic health (greater adiposity, insulin resistance, and cortisol) correlate with shorter telomeres. Self-reported dietary restraint (DR), defined as chronic preoccupation with weight and attempts at restricting food intake, is linked to greater perceived stress, cortisol, and weight gain, when assessed in community studies (versus in weight loss programs).

Objective: To test for an association between DR and TL in healthy women across a range of ages.

Methods: We examined whether DR is linked to TL in two samples, one of premenopausal women (aged 20-50 years;N = 36) and one of postmenopausal women (aged 53-69 years; N = 20).

Results: In both samples, higher levels of DR were associated with shorter leukocyte TL, independent of body mass index, smoking, and age.

Conclusions: Chronic DR, as assessed by self-report (i.e. not caloric restriction), may be a risk factor for premature telomere shortening. Potential mechanisms are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / genetics*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Diet, Reducing*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Leukocytes / metabolism
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / diet therapy
  • Obesity / genetics
  • Overweight / diet therapy
  • Overweight / genetics
  • Postmenopause / genetics*
  • Premenopause / genetics*
  • Reference Values
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Stress, Physiological / genetics
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Stress, Psychological / genetics
  • Telomere / genetics*
  • Telomere / pathology
  • Weight Gain / genetics
  • Young Adult


  • Hydrocortisone