BACKGROUND: Dietary factors can affect telomere length (TL), a biomarker of aging, through oxidation and inflammation-related mechanisms. A Dietary Inflammatory Index (DII) could help to understand the effect of the inflammatory potential of the diet on telomere shortening.
OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to determine the association of the DII with TL and to examine whether diet-associated inflammation could modify the telomere attrition rate after a 5-y follow-up of a Mediterranean dietary intervention.
DESIGN: This was a prospective study of 520 participants at high cardiovascular disease risk (mean ± SD age: 67.0 ± 6.0 y, 45% males) from the PREDIMED-NAVARRA (PREvencion con DIeta MEDiterranea-NAVARRA) trial. Leukocyte TL was measured by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction at baseline and after 5 y of follow-up. The DII was calculated from self-reported data by using a validated 137-item food-frequency questionnaire.
RESULTS: Longer telomeres at baseline were found in participants who had a more anti-inflammatory diet (lowest DII score) (P-trend = 0.012). Longitudinal analyses further showed that a greater anti-inflammatory potential of the diet (i.e., a decrease in the DII) could significantly slow down the rate of telomere shortening. Moreover, the multivariable-adjusted OR for short telomeres (z score ¿20th percentile) was 1.80 (95% CI: 1.03, 3.17) in a comparison between the highest (proinflammatory) and the lowest (anti-inflammatory) DII tertiles. Similarly, a greater DII (greatest proinflammatory values) after a 5-y follow-up was associated with almost a 2-fold higher risk of accelerated telomere attrition compared with the highest decrease in DII (greatest anti-inflammatory values) during this period (P-trend = 0.025).
CONCLUSIONS: This study showed both cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between the inflammatory potential of the diet and telomere shortening in subjects with a high cardiovascular disease risk. Our findings are consistent with, but do not show, a beneficial effect of adherence to an anti-inflammatory diet on aging and health by slowing down telomere shortening. These results suggest that diet might play a key role as a determinant of TL through proinflammatory or anti-inflammatory mechanisms. This trial was registered at controlled-trials.com as ISRCTN35739639.
2015 American Society for Nutrition.