Leukocyte telomere length (LTL) may be a biomarker for chronic disease susceptibility, but no work has tested this hypothesis directly. Our study investigated associations of LTL at birth with markers of adiposity growth that are linked with cardiometabolic health later in life.
Participants were 375 children in Project Viva (48% female, 71% White). Body mass index (BMI) trajectories from birth to 18 years were tracked using repeated measures of BMI collected in physical examinations and via medical records, then used to predict age (months) and magnitude (kg/m ) of BMI peak and rebound. LTL was measured from cord blood via duplex quantitative PCR. A binary variable indicating LTL shorter than the reference population average was the primary exposure.
LTL was unrelated to BMI at peak or rebound, but associations were apparent with the timing of BMI growth milestones. Short LTL was related to a later age of peak for females (β = 0.99, 95% CI = 0.16, 1.82; p = 0.015) and an earlier age of rebound for both males and females (β = -5.26, 95% CI = -9.44, -1.08).
LTL at birth may be an early biomarker of altered adiposity growth. Newborn telomere biology may shed new insight into the developmental origins of health and disease.