Diet Quality Indices and Leukocyte Telomere Length Among Healthy US Adults: Data From the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999–2002

Cindy W. Leung*, Teresa T. Fung, Claire T. McEvoy, Jue Lin, Elissa S. Epel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Citations (Scopus)
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Aging is the biggest risk factor for the development of chronic diseases. Telomere length may represent one important mechanism by which dietary intake influences age-related diseases; however, it is unknown which diet pattern is most strongly related to telomere length. We compared the relations between four evidence-based diet quality indices and leukocyte telomere length in a nationally representative sample of healthy adults, and the extent to which these associations differ between men and women. Data came from 4,758 adults, aged 20-65 years, with no prior diagnosis of major chronic disease, from the 1999-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES). Diet was assessed using one 24-hour dietary recall. After adjusting for sociodemographic and health characteristics, comparing the top and bottom quintiles showed that higher Healthy Eating Index-2010 (β=0.065, 95% CI 0.018, 0.112, P-trend=0.007), AHEI-2010 scores (β=0.054, 95% CI 0.010, 0.097, P-trend=0.007), Mediterranean Diet scores (β=0.058, 95% CI 0.017, 0.098, P-trend=0.008), and Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension (DASH) scores (β=0.052, 95% CI 0.014, 0.090, P-trend=0.007) were each associated with longer telomere length in women. These results may provide insight into the complex associations between optimal nutrition and longevity. Further investigation is needed to understand why associations were not observed in men.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2192-2201
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number10
Early online date15 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 2018



  • Alternate Healthy Eating Index
  • cellular aging
  • diet patterns
  • Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension score
  • Healthy Eating Index
  • leukocyte telomere length
  • Mediterranean Diet score

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