Obesity and Cellular Aging in Childhood

A provocative study (MJ Baskind et al. J Pediatr 2021; 233: 141-149. Obesity at Age 6 Months Is Associated with Shorter Preschool Leukocyte Telomere Length Independent of Parental Telomere Length) suggests that obesity in infancy can result in shortened telomere length, which is a cumulative marker for cellular aging. Also, leukocyte telomere length (LTL) is associated with known risk factors for cardiometabolic disease, including obesity and smoking

The authors prospectively studied a group of 97 woman-infant dyads from the Latinx, Eating and Diabetes cohort. Key findings:

  • Obesity at 6 months was negatively associated (β = −0.21; P < .001) with leukocyte telomere length
  • However, there was a lack of association between obesity at earlier ages (2-5 years) and preschooler LTL in the same cohort
  • Any breastfeeding at 6 months was positively associated with leukocyte telomere length

From the associated editorial: JL Buxton, fulltext: Early Warning Signs? Infant Obesity and Accelerated Cellular Aging “These results are based on data from a relatively small sample and await replication in larger cohorts recruited from different populations.”

My take: This study shows that obesity could be affecting our bodies in ways that most of us have never contemplated.

Aerial view of the “the quicksands” off the coast of Key West: