Article open access publication

Body mass index is negatively associated with telomere length: a collaborative cross-sectional meta-analysis of 87 observational studies.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Oxford University Press (OUP), ISSN 0002-9165

Volume 108, 3, 2018

DOI:10.1093/ajcn/nqy107, Dimensions: pub.1103798693, PMC: PMC6454526, PMID: 30535086,


Hovatta, Iiris (21) (22)
Willeit, Peter (27) (28)
Rode, Line (32)
Marti, Amelia (36) (37) (38)
Zheng, Wei (40)
Kaprio, Jaakko (22) (41)
Strandberg, Timo (22) (50)
Charchar, Fadi J (56) (57)
Mons, Ute (60) (61)
Cheng, Guo (64)



  1. (1) Departments of Complex Genetics
  2. (2) Toxicology, NUTRIM School of Nutrition and Translational Research in Metabolism, Maastricht University Medical Center, Maastricht University, Netherlands
  3. (3) Maastricht University, grid.5012.6
  4. (4) Östersunds Hospital, grid.477667.3
  5. (5) Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, grid.420545.2
  6. (6) King's College London, grid.13097.3c
  7. (7) Madras Diabetes Research Foundation, grid.429336.9
  8. (8) Ghent University, grid.5342.0
  9. (9) Population Sciences Branch of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), NIH, NHLBI's Framingham Heart Study, Framingham, MA
  10. (10) University of Colorado Denver, grid.241116.1
  11. (11) Leiden University Medical Center, grid.10419.3d
  12. (12) University of Utah, grid.223827.e
  13. (13) The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, grid.267308.8
  14. (14) Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, BSRC “Alexander Fleming,” Athens, Greece
  15. (15) Medical University of South Carolina, grid.259828.c
  16. (16) San Francisco General Hospital, grid.416732.5
  17. (17) Department of Medicine and Genetics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY, and Department of Biology, Faculty of Natural Science, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel
  18. (18) University of Edinburgh, grid.4305.2
  19. (19) Northwestern University, grid.16753.36
  20. (20) Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, grid.257413.6
  21. (21) National Institute for Health and Welfare, grid.14758.3f
  22. (22) University of Helsinki, grid.7737.4
  23. (23) Hebrew University of Jerusalem, grid.9619.7
  24. (24) Hadassah Medical Center, grid.17788.31
  25. (25) Triemli Hospital, grid.414526.0
  26. (26) UNSW Sydney, grid.1005.4
  27. (27) University of Cambridge, grid.5335.0
  28. (28) Innsbruck Medical University, grid.5361.1
  29. (29) Department of Oncology, Georgetown University Medical Center, Georgetown University, Washington, DC
  30. (30) University of Padua, grid.5608.b
  31. (31) University of Minnesota, grid.17635.36
  32. (32) The Copenhagen General Population Study, Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Copenhagen University Hospital, Herlev and Gentofte Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark
  33. (33) University of Chile, grid.443909.3
  34. (34) University College London, grid.83440.3b
  35. (35) Mayo Clinic, grid.66875.3a
  36. (36) Institute of Health Carlos III, grid.413448.e
  37. (37) Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria de Navarra, Pamplona, Spain
  38. (38) University of Navarra, grid.5924.a
  39. (39) University of Michigan, grid.214458.e
  40. (40) Vanderbilt University Medical Center, grid.412807.8
  41. (41) Department of Public Health
  42. (42) National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, grid.420086.8
  43. (43) Helmholtz Zentrum München, grid.4567.0
  44. (44) University of Campania "Luigi Vanvitelli", grid.9841.4
  45. (45) University of Southern Denmark, grid.10825.3e, SDU
  46. (46) University of California, Los Angeles, grid.19006.3e
  47. (47) Stanford University, grid.168010.e
  48. (48) University Medical Center Groningen, grid.4494.d
  49. (49) Erasmus University Medical Center, grid.5645.2
  50. (50) University of Oulu, grid.10858.34
  51. (51) University of Washington, grid.34477.33
  52. (52) Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, grid.270240.3
  53. (53) VU University Medical Center, grid.16872.3a
  54. (54) University of Siena, grid.9024.f
  55. (55) University of Sao Paulo, grid.11899.38
  56. (56) University of Leicester, grid.9918.9
  57. (57) University of Melbourne, grid.1008.9
  58. (58) Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, grid.498924.a
  59. (59) University of Manchester, grid.5379.8
  60. (60) Division of Clinical Epidemiology and Aging Research
  61. (61) German Cancer Research Center, grid.7497.d
  62. (62) Charité–Universitätsmedizin Berlin (corporate member of Freie Universität Berlin), Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and Berlin Institute of Health, Lipid Clinic at the Interdisciplinary Metabolism Center, Berlin, Germany
  63. (63) University of Buenos Aires, grid.7345.5
  64. (64) Sichuan University, grid.13291.38
  65. (65) National Academy of Medical Sciences of Ukraine, grid.419973.1
  66. (66) Research Center, Montreal Heart Institute, and Psychology Department, University of Montreal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  67. (67) Medical University of Lodz, grid.8267.b
  68. (68) Cardiff Metropolitan University, grid.47170.35
  69. (69) National University of Singapore, grid.4280.e
  70. (70) Lund University, grid.4514.4
  71. (71) Population Health Research Institute, grid.415102.3


Background: Even before the onset of age-related diseases, obesity might be a contributing factor to the cumulative burden of oxidative stress and chronic inflammation throughout the life course. Obesity may therefore contribute to accelerated shortening of telomeres. Consequently, obese persons are more likely to have shorter telomeres, but the association between body mass index (BMI) and leukocyte telomere length (TL) might differ across the life span and between ethnicities and sexes. Objective: A collaborative cross-sectional meta-analysis of observational studies was conducted to investigate the associations between BMI and TL across the life span. Design: Eighty-seven distinct study samples were included in the meta-analysis capturing data from 146,114 individuals. Study-specific age- and sex-adjusted regression coefficients were combined by using a random-effects model in which absolute [base pairs (bp)] and relative telomere to single-copy gene ratio (T/S ratio) TLs were regressed against BMI. Stratified analysis was performed by 3 age categories ("young": 18-60 y; "middle": 61-75 y; and "old": >75 y), sex, and ethnicity. Results: Each unit increase in BMI corresponded to a -3.99 bp (95% CI: -5.17, -2.81 bp) difference in TL in the total pooled sample; among young adults, each unit increase in BMI corresponded to a -7.67 bp (95% CI: -10.03, -5.31 bp) difference. Each unit increase in BMI corresponded to a -1.58 × 10(-3) unit T/S ratio (0.16% decrease; 95% CI: -2.14 × 10(-3), -1.01 × 10(-3)) difference in age- and sex-adjusted relative TL in the total pooled sample; among young adults, each unit increase in BMI corresponded to a -2.58 × 10(-3) unit T/S ratio (0.26% decrease; 95% CI: -3.92 × 10(-3), -1.25 × 10(-3)). The associations were predominantly for the white pooled population. No sex differences were observed. Conclusions: A higher BMI is associated with shorter telomeres, especially in younger individuals. The presently observed difference is not negligible. Meta-analyses of longitudinal studies evaluating change in body weight alongside change in TL are warranted.


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University of Southern Denmark

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2018: Unused

Research area: Medicine

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2018: Level 2

Research area: Medicine

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Times Cited: 26

Field Citation Ratio (FCR): 16

Relative Citation ratio (RCR): 2.91

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