Micronutrient status and leukocyte telomere length in school-age Colombian children

Eur J Nutr. 2020 Apr;59(3):1055-1065. doi: 10.1007/s00394-019-01966-x. Epub 2019 Apr 20.


Purpose: Leukocyte telomere length (LTL) is a biomarker of inflammation and oxidative stress that predicts chronic disease risk. Nutritional factors are related to LTL in adulthood, but these associations are not well characterized in children. We examined whether micronutrient status biomarkers were associated with LTL in school-age children.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study of 330 boys and 393 girls aged 5-12 years from Bogotá, Colombia. We quantified blood concentrations of hemoglobin, ferritin, zinc, vitamin A, folate, and vitamin B-12; and measured LTL using qPCR in DNA extracted from buffy coat. We estimated mean differences in LTL by quartiles of micronutrient status biomarkers and categories of relevant sociodemographic and anthropometric covariates with the use of linear regression.

Results: In girls, plasma vitamin B-12 was positively associated with LTL (adjusted LTL difference between extreme vitamin B-12 quartiles = 0.11; P, trend = 0.02). LTL was also positively associated with birth order in girls (P, trend = 0.02). In boys, LTL was not related to the micronutrient status biomarkers but, unexpectedly, it was positively associated with birth weight (P = 0.02), height-for-age Z score (P, trend = 0.01), and serum C-reactive protein (P, trend = 0.01).

Conclusions: LTL is associated with vitamin B-12 status among girls. LTL is also associated with birth weight, height, and C-reactive protein in boys.

Keywords: Birth weight; Children; Height; Leukocyte telomere length; Micronutrients; Vitamin B-12.

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Colombia
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes*
  • Male
  • Micronutrients / blood*
  • Nutrition Surveys / methods*
  • Nutrition Surveys / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sex Factors
  • Telomere*


  • Biomarkers
  • Micronutrients