Impact of Nutrition on Telomere Health: Systematic Review of
Observational Cohort Studies and Randomized Clinical Trials
Advances in Nutrition 2020 (May 1); 11 (3): 576–601
Diet, physical activity, and other lifestyle factors have been implicated in the pathophysiology of several chronic diseases, but also in a lower total mortality and longer life expectancy. One of the mechanisms in which diet can reduce the risk of disease is with regard to its impact on telomeres. Telomere length (TL) is highly correlated to chronological age and metabolic status. Individuals with shorter telomeres are at higher risk of chronic diseases and mortality. Diet may influence TL by several mechanisms such as regulating oxidative stress and inflammation or modulating epigenetic reactions. The present systematic review aims to examine the results from epidemiologic and clinical trials conducted in humans evaluating the role of nutrients, food groups, and dietary patterns on TL. We also discuss the possible mechanisms of action that influence this process, with the perspective that TL could be a novel biomarker indicating the risk of metabolic disturbances and age-related diseases. The available evidence suggests that some antioxidant nutrients, the consumption of fruits and vegetables, and Mediterranean diet are mainly associated with longer telomeres. However, most of the evidence is based on high heterogenic observational studies and very few randomized clinical trials (RCTs). Therefore, the associations summarized in the present review need to be confirmed with larger prospective cohort studies and better-designed RCTs.