European Congress on Obesity

European Congress on Obesity

Source:

Alonso Pedrero L, et al. Ultra-processed food consumption is associated with the risk of short telomeres in an elderly population of the SUN project. Presented at: European and International Congress on Obesity Annual Meeting; Sept. 1-4, 2020; (virtual meeting).

Disclosures: Bes-Rastrollo reports no relevant financial disclosures.
September 03, 2020
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Eating ultra-processed foods associated with faster aging

Source:

Alonso Pedrero L, et al. Ultra-processed food consumption is associated with the risk of short telomeres in an elderly population of the SUN project. Presented at: European and International Congress on Obesity Annual Meeting; Sept. 1-4, 2020; (virtual meeting).

Disclosures: Bes-Rastrollo reports no relevant financial disclosures.
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Higher consumption of ultra-processed foods is associated with shorter telomere length — a sign of cell aging — among a cohort of adults from Spain, according to study data.

“Telomere length gets shorter with every cell division, and thus, producing aging. However, this process may be accelerated due to different risk factors, such as ultra-processed food consumption,” Maira Bes-Rastrollo, PhD, professor of preventive medicine and public health at the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, told Healio. “These risk factors produce oxidative stress and inflammation, which are some of the mechanisms inducing telomere attrition and further cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases or cancer.”

Fast food
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Bes-Rastrollo and colleagues presented their findings at the European and International Congress on Obesity virtual meeting.

Maira Bes-Rastrollo

The researchers conducted a cross-sectional study with 886 adults aged 57 to 91 years enrolled in the Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra Project (72.8% men). Researchers measured telomere length through quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction at baseline. To measure ultra-processed food consumption, participants filled out a 136-item food frequency questionnaire. Foods were placed into four categories: unprocessed/minimally processed foods, processed culinary ingredients, processed foods and ultra-processed foods.

Researchers examined the 20th percentile of the cohort who had the lowest measured telomere length. These participants were categorized based on their reported consumption of ultra-processed foods: low consumption (n = 36) with fewer than two servings of ultra-processed foods per day, medium-low consumption (n = 41) with between two and 2.5 servings daily, medium-high consumption (n = 48) with between 2.5 and three servings per day, and high consumption (n = 52) with three or more servings per day.

In a model adjusted for age; sex; education level; BMI; family history of diabetes and cardiovascular disease; presence of cancer, diabetes and dyslipidemia; and lifelong smoking status, physical activity and television viewing; participants who had three or more servings of ultra-processed foods per day were more like to have short telomere length than those with less than two servings (OR = 1.82; 95% CI, 1.05-3.22). Participants with between 2.5 and three servings (OR = 1.4; 95% CI, 0.80-2.51, P = .03) and two to 2.5 servings (OR = 1.29; 95% CI, 0.73-2.32, P = .03) also had greater odds for shorter telomeres.

Questionnaire data showed 17% of all ultra-processed foods consumed by the cohort were dairy products, including custard, ice cream and milk shakes. Processed meats such as ham, chorizo, mortadella, salami, paté, black pudding mortadella, sausages, hamburgers and sobrasada represented 15% of ultra-processed foods reported. Pastries, including muffins, doughnuts and croissants, represented 12% of the ultra-processed foods consumed.

Bes-Rastrollo said the findings show that cutting down on ultra-processed foods could help slow down the shortening of telomeres and the aging process.

“A high consumption of ultra-processed food associated with telomere length attrition may trigger other diseases, which implicate a higher prescription of drugs, a higher collapse of hospitals or even a premature death, which will be translated into a more prevalence of comorbidities and mortality,” Bes-Rastrollo said.