Background: Telomere length (TL) is a marker of cellular aging, with the majority of lifetime attrition occurring during the first 4 y. Little is known about risk factors for telomere shortening in childhood.
Objective: We evaluated the relation between early life feeding variables and preschool TL.
Design: We assessed the relation between dietary, feeding, and weight-associated risk factors measured from birth and TL from blood samples taken at 4 y of age (n = 108) and 5 y of age (n = 92) in a cohort of urban, Latino children (n = 121 individual children). Feeding variables were evaluated in children with repeat measurements (n = 77).
Results: Mean TL (in bp) was associated with exclusive breastfeeding at 4-6 wk of age (adjusted coefficient: 353.85; 95% CI: 72.81, 634.89; P = 0.01), maternal TL (adjusted coefficient: 0.32; 95% CI: 0.11, 0.54; P < 0.01), and older paternal age (adjusted coefficient: 33.27; 95% CI: 4.10, 62.44; P = 0.03). The introduction of other foods or drinks in addition to breast-milk or replacement-milk substitutes before 4-6 wk of age was associated with mean TL at 4 and 5 y of age (adjusted coefficient: -457.01; 95% CI: -720.50, -193.51; P < 0.01). Infant obesity at 6 mo of age and soda consumption at 4 y of age mediated the relation in part between exclusive breastfeeding at 4-6 wk of age and mean TL at 4 and 5 y of age. High soda consumption at 3 y of age was associated with an accelerated attrition from 4 to 5 y of age (adjusted coefficient: -515.14; 95% CI: -986.06, -41.22; P = 0.03).
Conclusion: Exclusive breastfeeding at 4-6 wk of age may have long-term effects on child health as evidenced by longer TL at 4 and 5 y of age.
Keywords: Latino; breastfeeding; infants; obesity; telomere; telomere length.
© 2016 American Society for Nutrition.