Childhood obesity and leucocyte telomere length

Eur J Clin Invest. 2019 Dec;49(12):e13178. doi: 10.1111/eci.13178. Epub 2019 Nov 20.


Background: Obesity in adulthood is associated with decreased leucocyte telomere length (LTL), which is associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus type 2. The aim of our study was to investigate whether increased body mass index (BMI) is associated with decreased LTL in children and adolescents, and to identify other risk factors of shorter LTL in this population.

Materials and methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted among 919 Greek children aged 9-13 years (The Healthy Growth Study). Participants were classified as obese (n = 124), overweight (n = 276) or of normal BMI (n = 519). LTL was determined by monochrome multiplex quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. Univariate and multivariable linear regression analyses were applied to determine the predictive factors of LTL.

Results: Both overweight and obese children had significantly shorter LTL than their normal-BMI counterparts. Following adjustment for age, sex, total daily energy intake and average weekly physical activity (average total steps per day), increasing weight category was inversely associated with LTL in children and adolescents (β: -0.110 ± 0.035; P = .002).

Conclusion: Overweight and obesity in childhood and adolescence are associated with shorter LTL, even following adjustment for potential confounding effects. Therefore, the increased BMI in childhood and adolescence may be associated with accelerated biological ageing and may have an adverse impact on future health in adulthood.

Keywords: childhood obesity; leucocyte telomere length; obesity; telomeres.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Aging / metabolism*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Female
  • Greece
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / metabolism*
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Multiplex Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Pediatric Obesity / metabolism*
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Telomere / metabolism*