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South Med J. 2018 Oct;111(10):591-596. doi: 10.14423/SMJ.0000000000000871.

Effects of Maternal Carbohydrate and Fat Intake on Fetal Telomere Length.

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From the Department of Family and Community Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of South Florida College of Public Health, Tampa, Kingsborough Community College, City University of New York, Manhattan Beach, the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee, and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, University of South Florida, Tampa.



Telomere length can be affected by dietary factors in adults. We investigated the association between maternal carbohydrate and fat intake during pregnancy and telomere length in neonatal cord blood leukocytes. We hypothesized that high fat consumption and high carbohydrate consumption would be associated with shortened fetal telomere length.


We collected umbilical cord blood at delivery from women admitted for labor and delivery in a university hospital (N = 62) and extracted genomic DNA using quantitative polymerase chain reaction. We quantified telomere length using the telomere-to-single copy gene ratio method (T:S ratio). High carbohydrate intake was defined as consumption of >175 g/day and high fat intake as >35 g/day. We performed generalized linear regression modeling and bootstrap statistical analyses to derive precise estimates of association.


Of the 62 maternal-fetal dyads included in this study, 79% were classified as high carbohydrate consumers and 37% were classified as high fat consumers. High fat consumption had a significant negative effect on T:S ratio (P < 0.05). Although high carbohydrate consumption was associated with a decreased T:S ratio, this relation did not attain statistical significance.


To our knowledge, this study is the first evidence of an association between maternal high fat consumption and shortened fetal telomere length. These findings could enhance our understanding of the role of maternal diet in fetal programming.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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