Early life adiposity and telomere length across the life course: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Wellcome Open Res. 2018 Aug 7;2:118. doi: 10.12688/wellcomeopenres.13083.2. eCollection 2017.


Background: The relationship between adiposity at birth and in childhood, and telomere length is yet to be determined. We aimed to systematically review and meta-analyse the results of studies assessing associations between neonatal and later childhood adiposity, and telomere length. Methods: We searched Medline, EMBASE and PubMed for studies reporting associations between adiposity measured in the neonatal period or later childhood/adolescence, and leucocyte telomere length, measured at any age via quantitative polymerase chain reaction, or terminal restriction fragment analysis, either cross-sectionally, or longitudinally. Papers published before April 2017 were included. Results: Out of 230 abstracts assessed, 23 papers (32 estimates) were retained, from which 19 estimates were meta-analysed (15 cross-sectional, four longitudinal). Of the 15 cross-sectional estimates, seven reported on neonates: four used binary exposures of small-for-gestational-age vs. appropriate-for-gestational age (or appropriate- and large-for-gestational age), and three studied birth weight continuously. Eight estimates reported on later childhood or adolescent measures; five estimates were from studies of binary exposures (overweight/obese vs. non-obese children), and three studies used continuous measures of body mass index. All four longitudinal estimates were of neonatal adiposity, with two estimates for small-for-gestational-age vs. appropriate-for-gestational age neonates, and two estimates of birth weight studied continuously, in relation to adult telomere (49-61 years). There was no strong evidence of an association between neonatal or later childhood/adolescent adiposity, and telomere length. However, between study heterogeneity was high, and there were few combinable studies. Conclusions: Our systematic review and meta-analysis found no strong evidence of an association between neonatal or later childhood or adolescent adiposity and telomere length.

Keywords: adiposity; children; systematic review; telomere length.