Background: Previously, we demonstrated that a water, sanitation, handwashing, and nutritional intervention improved linear growth and was unexpectedly associated with shortened childhood telomere length (TL) (Lin et al., 2017). Here, we assessed the association between TL and growth. Methods: We measured relative TL in whole blood from 713 children. We reported differences between the 10th percentile and 90th percentile of TL or change in TL distribution using generalized additive models, adjusted for potential confounders. Results: In cross-sectional analyses, long TL was associated with a higher length-for-age Z score at age 1 year (0.23 SD adjusted difference in length-for-age Z score (95% CI 0.05, 0.42; FDR-corrected p-value = 0.01)). TL was not associated with other outcomes. Conclusions: Consistent with the metabolic telomere attrition hypothesis, our previous trial findings support an adaptive role for telomere attrition, whereby active TL regulation is employed as a strategy to address ‘emergency states’ with increased energy requirements such as rapid growth during the first year of life. Although short periods of active telomere attrition may be essential to promote growth, this study suggests that a longer overall initial TL setting in the first two years of life could signal increased resilience against future telomere erosion events and healthy growth trajectories.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)