Longer Leukocyte Telomere Length Predicts Stronger Response to a Workplace Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Sales Ban: An Exploratory Study

Curr Dev Nutr. 2021 May 26;5(7):nzab084. doi: 10.1093/cdn/nzab084. eCollection 2021 Jul.


Background: Shorter leukocyte telomere length (LTL) is associated with increased risk of a number of metabolic diseases including insulin resistance and the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Shorter LTL is also associated with stress reactivity suggestive of a possible role for LTL to predict response to behavioral interventions. However, few studies have evaluated how interventions, such as weight loss or dietary changes, are associated with LTL changes or whether LTL can predict behavioral responses to interventions.

Objectives: We evaluated metabolic changes in relation to LTL changes and LTL at baseline in a cohort of at-risk adults in response to a 10-mo workplace-based sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) intervention.

Methods: At baseline, metabolic health and LTL measurements were assessed through standard blood draws on 212 participants. Multivariable linear regression models were used to assess changes in anthropometrics, SSB consumption, and 13 blood-based metabolic risk factors, in relation to LTL at baseline and changes in LTL.

Results: Longer LTL at baseline was associated with decreases in SSB consumption over the 6-mo follow-up period (B = -29.67; P = 0.04). Slower LTL attrition rates were associated with decreases in waist circumference (B = -0.27; P = 0.03), HDL cholesterol (B = -0.20; P = 0.05), and apoA1 (B = -0.09; P = 0.01).

Conclusions: Longer LTL at baseline predicted a favorable overall response to a behavioral intervention: decreases in SSB consumption. Abdominal adiposity losses paralleled slower declines in LTL suggestive of overall health benefits, but we found differences in the relations between metabolic changes and LTL at baseline compared with LTL attrition rates. Longer LTL may be a proxy marker of a positive behavioral response.This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT02585336.

Keywords: SSB; adiposity; community level intervention; lipids; sugar-sweetened beverages; telomere; waist circumference.

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02585336