Environmental and lifestyle factors that affect oxidative stress and inflammation may influence telomere length (TL). There are limited data to relate the effect of dietary components on TL. The present study examined the association between food groups and TL in a sample of elderly Chinese. In a sample of 2006 Chinese (976 men and 1030 women) aged 65 years and over, TL was measured by quantitative real-time PCR and daily intake of food groups was assessed by a validated FFQ. Linear regression and analysis of covariance were used to examine the association between food group intake and TL, with adjustment for demographic and lifestyle factors. In men, only Chinese tea consumption was significantly associated with TL after adjustment for demographics and lifestyle factors (P = 0.002). Mean difference in TL for those in the highest quartile of Chinese tea consumption (>3 cups/d or >750 ml/d) as compared with those in the lowest quartile of Chinese tea consumption ( <or= 0.28 cups/d or <or= 70 ml/d) was 0.46 kb, corresponding to approximately a difference of 5 years of life. In women, intake of fats and oils was borderline and negatively associated with TL after adjustment for demographic and lifestyle factors (P = 0.037). In conclusion, Chinese tea consumption was positively associated with TL in elderly Chinese men.