An article published online on January 11, 2012 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals the presence of longer telomeres among men who consume fewer calories in comparison with those who consumed more. Telomeres are protective caps at the ends of chromosomes that shorten with age, and are used as a biomarker of cellular aging.
Researchers from Hebrew University in Israel and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey analyzed data from 405 men and 204 women who participated in the Jerusalem LRC Prevalence Study, a long term observational study of Jerusalem residents. Leukocyte (white blood cell) telomere length was measured in blood samples obtained between 1989 and 1991 and at follow-up (which averaged 13.1 years after baseline). Dietary questionnaire responses provided data on daily calories and foods consumed.
Lower calorie intake at baseline and follow-up were associated with longer telomere length in men, whereas the association with women was not significant. Further analysis determined that the association was restricted to those who never smoked. Of foods consumed, decreased unsaturated fatty intake had the strongest association with longer telomeres. "We found calorie intake at a mean age of 30 years to be significantly inversely associated with leukocyte telomere length at the mean ages of 30 and 43 years but not with leukocyte telomere length change during the relatively brief 13 year window of follow-up," the authors write. "This finding was confined to men and was evident for all of the macronutrients (although more so for unsaturated fatty acids), suggesting that energy per se, and not specific nutrients, might play a role."
"The inverse calorie intake–leukocyte telomere length association is consistent with trial data showing beneficial effects of calorie restriction on aging biomarkers," they conclude.
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