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Version 2. Wellcome Open Res. 2018 Aug 7 [revised 2018 Aug 7];2:118. doi: 10.12688/wellcomeopenres.13083.2. eCollection 2017.

Early life adiposity and telomere length across the life course: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

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MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit, Population Health Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.
Population Health Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.
NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at the University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.


Background: The relationship between adiposity at birth and in childhood, and telomere length is yet to be determined. We aimed to systematically review and meta-analyse the results of studies assessing associations between neonatal and later childhood adiposity, and telomere length. Methods: We searched Medline, EMBASE and PubMed for studies reporting associations between adiposity measured in the neonatal period or later childhood/adolescence, and leucocyte telomere length, measured at any age via quantitative polymerase chain reaction, or terminal restriction fragment analysis, either cross-sectionally, or longitudinally. Papers published before April 2017 were included. Results: Out of 230 abstracts assessed, 23 papers (32 estimates) were retained, from which 19 estimates were meta-analysed (15 cross-sectional, four longitudinal). Of the 15 cross-sectional estimates, seven reported on neonates: four used binary exposures of small-for-gestational-age vs. appropriate-for-gestational age (or appropriate- and large-for-gestational age), and three studied birth weight continuously. Eight estimates reported on later childhood or adolescent measures; five estimates were from studies of binary exposures (overweight/obese vs. non-obese children), and three studies used continuous measures of body mass index. All four longitudinal estimates were of neonatal adiposity, with two estimates for small-for-gestational-age vs. appropriate-for-gestational age neonates, and two estimates of birth weight studied continuously, in relation to adult telomere (49-61 years). There was no strong evidence of an association between neonatal or later childhood/adolescent adiposity, and telomere length. However, between study heterogeneity was high, and there were few combinable studies. Conclusions: Our systematic review and meta-analysis found no strong evidence of an association between neonatal or later childhood or adolescent adiposity and telomere length.


adiposity; children; systematic review; telomere length

Conflict of interest statement

Competing interests: TRG reports funding from Sanofi, Biogen and GlaxoSmithKline for projects unrelated to the work presented in this manuscript.

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