Background: Repeated nucleotide sequences combined with proteins called telomeres cover chromosome ends and dictate cells lifespan. Many factors can modify telomere length, among them are: nutrition and smoking habits, physical activities and socioeconomic status measured by education level. The aim of the study was to determine the influence of above mentioned factors on peripheral blood mononuclear cells telomere length.
Methods: Study included 28 subjects (seven male and 21 female, age 18-65 years.), smokers and non-smokers without any serious health problems in past and present. Following a basic medical examination, patients completed the food frequency questionnaire with 17 foods and beverages most common groups and gave blood for testing. PBMC telomere length were measured with qualitative real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (rtPCR) method and expressed as a T/S ratio.
Results: Among nine food types (cereal, fruits, vegetables, diary, red meat, poultry, fish, sweets and salty snacks) and eight beverages (juices, coffee, tea, mineral water, alcoholic- and sweetened carbonated beverages) only intake of red meat was related to T/S ratio. Individuals with increased consumption of red meat have had higher T/S ratio and the strongest significant differences were observed between consumer groups: "never" and "1-2 daily" (p = 0.02). Smoking habits, physical activity, LDL and HDL concentrations, and education level were not related to telomere length, directly or as a covariates.
Conclusions: Unexpected correlation of telomere length with the frequency of consumption of red meat indicates the need for further in-depth research and may undermine some accepted concepts of adverse effects of this diet on the health status and life longevity.
Keywords: Diet; Peripheral blood mononuclear cells; Real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction; Red meat; Telomere length.