Inverse association between adiposity and telomere length: The Fels Longitudinal Study

Am J Hum Biol. 2011 Jan-Feb;23(1):100-6. doi: 10.1002/ajhb.21109.


Objectives: To assess the relationship between telomere length and adiposity, using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), in addition to conventional anthropometric proxies including body mass index (BMI) and cardiovascular disease risk factors.

Methods: A cross-sectional sample of 309 non-Hispanic white participants in the Fels Longitudinal Study aged 8 to 80 yr (52% female) was included. Average telomere length was measured by quantitative PCR.

Results: Telomere length was negatively correlated with age (r = -0.32, P < 0.0001) and had numerous significant correlations with established cardiovascular disease risk factors including waist circumference (r = -0.33), apolipoprotein B (r = -0.26), systolic blood pressure (r = -0.28), and fasting serum glucose (r = -0.15); all P < 0.0025. In backward selection linear regression models of telomere length, adiposity measures were consistently retained in the best models; BMI, waist circumference, hip circumference, total body fat, and visceral adipose tissue volume were all inversely associated with telomere length at the nominal P < 0.05 level or lower, independent of age, sex, systolic blood pressure, and fasting serum lipid, lipoprotein, and glucose concentrations. The negative association of BMI with telomere length was stronger among younger than older participants (P for interaction, 0.03).

Conclusions: Individuals with higher total and abdominal adiposity have lower telomere length, a marker of cellular senescence, suggesting obesity may hasten the aging process. Longitudinal studies are required to establish the causal association of early life adiposity with biological aging.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Fat / pathology*
  • Adiposity
  • Adult
  • Aging / pathology
  • Apolipoproteins B
  • Blood Pressure
  • Body Fat Distribution*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Child
  • Fasting
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Ohio
  • Telomere / ultrastructure*
  • Waist Circumference
  • Whites


  • Apolipoproteins B
  • Glucose