Background: Few studies have evaluated the relationship between diet quality and telomere integrity in humans. Telomeres are regions of non-coding DNA localized at the end of each chromosome whose length, in addition to indicating life expectancy, indicates an overall health status. The objective of this systematic review is to compile the existing evidence on the relationship between telomere length and diet quality to further explore the impact that some nutrients, foods and dietary patterns may have on telomere homeostasis and therefore, in precision nutrition strategies.
Material and methods: A bibliographic review was performed in the PubMed database to identify published articles (in English or Spanish) until December 2016 that met the following criteria: included human subjects; cross-sectional studies; case-control studies; prospective cohort studies or intervention studies; evaluating the relationship of nutrients, foods or dietary patterns on telomere integrity. The search strategy included the following keywords: nutrients or food OR food groups OR diet OR dietary pattern OR eating pattern OR dietary habits OR diet type AND telomere attrition OR telomere length. In total, 19 cross-sectional studies, five case-control studies, five prospective cohort studies, and two intervention studies were included, including those articles that were found for being listed in other publications.
Results: Positive associations were found between telomere length and adherence to the Mediterranean diet and consumption of vegetables and fruits. The results observed for other nutrients, foods or dietary patterns were incoherent although it seems that processed meats, cereals, alcohol and sweetened beverages could be associated with shorter telomeres.
Conclusions: Dietary intervention, and in particular the promotion of a Mediterranean-style diet, may play a role in the protection of telomere integrity.