Childhood Growth, IQ and Education as Predictors of White Blood Cell Telomere Length at Age 49–51 Years: The Newcastle Thousand Families Study

Institute of Health & Society, Newcastle University, Newcastle Upon Tyne, England, United Kingdom.
PLoS ONE (Impact Factor: 3.23). 07/2012; 7(7):e40116. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040116
Source: PubMed


Telomere length is emerging as a potential factor in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease. We investigated whether birth weight, infant growth, childhood cognition and adult height, as well as a range of lifestyle, socio-economic and educational factors, were associated with white blood cell telomere length at age 49-51 years.
The study included 318 members of the Newcastle Thousand Families Study, a prospectively followed birth cohort which includes all individuals born in Newcastle, England in May and June 1947, who attended for clinical examination at age 49-51 years, and had telomere length successfully measured using real-time PCR analyses of DNA extracted from peripheral blood mononuclear cells.
No association was found between birth weight and later telomere length. However, associations were seen with other factors from early life. Education level was the only predictor in males, while telomere length in females was associated with gestational age at birth, childhood growth and childhood IQ.
While these findings may be due to chance, in particular where differing associations were seen between males and females, they do provide evidence of early life associations with telomere length much later in life. Our findings of sex differences in the education association may reflect the sex differences in achieved education levels in this generation where few women went to university regardless of their intelligence. Our findings do not support the concept of telomere length being on the pathway between very early growth and later disease risk.

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Available from: Martin White, Oct 04, 2015
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    • "Keywords: twins, birth weight, telomere length, IQ, anxiety/depression Shorter telomere length has been found to be associated with cognitive deficits (Devore et al., 2011; Kingma et al., 2012; Pearce et al., 2012; Valdes et al., 2010; Yaffe et al., 2011) and with stress-related conditions, including low birth weight (Davy et al., 2009), affective psychiatric disorders (Elvsashagen et al., 2011; Hartmann et al., 2010; Hoen et al., 2011; Karabatsiakis et al., 2014; Lung et al., 2007; Simon et al., 2006; Szebeni et al., 2014; Verhoeven et al., 2014; Wikgren et al., 2012; Wolkowitz et al., 2011) and anxiety disorders (Hoen et al., 2013; Jergovic et al., 2014; Kananen et al., 2010; Malan et al., 2011; O'Donovan et al., 2011; Zhang et al., 2014). However, the direction of causation underlying these associations is unclear. "
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    ABSTRACT: Shorter telomere length (TL) has found to be associated with lower birth weight and with lower cognitive ability and psychiatric disorders. However, the direction of causation of these associations and the extent to which they are genetically or environmentally mediated are unclear. Within-pair comparisons of monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins can throw light on these questions. We investigated correlations of within pair differences in telomere length, IQ, and anxiety/depression in an initial sample from Brisbane (242 MZ pairs, 245 DZ same sex (DZSS) pairs) and in replication samples from Amsterdam (514 MZ pairs, 233 DZSS pairs) and Melbourne (19 pairs selected for extreme high or low birth weight difference). Intra-pair differences of birth weight and telomere length were significantly correlated in MZ twins, but not in DZSS twins. Greater intra-pair differences of telomere length were observed in the 10% of MZ twins with the greatest difference in birth weight compared to the bottom 90% in both samples and also in the Melbourne sample. Intra-pair differences of telomere length and IQ, but not of TL and anxiety/depression, were correlated in MZ twins, and to a smaller extent in DZSS twins. Our findings suggest that the same prenatal effects that reduce birth weight also influence telomere length in MZ twins. The association between telomere length and IQ is partly driven by the same prenatal effects that decrease birth weight.
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    ABSTRACT: Early-life intelligence has been shown to predict multiple causes of death in populations around the world. This finding suggests that intelligence might influence mortality through its effects on a general process of physiological deterioration (i.e., individual variation in "biological age"). We examined whether intelligence could predict measures of aging at midlife before the onset of most age-related disease. We tested whether intelligence assessed in early childhood, middle childhood, and midlife predicted midlife biological age in members of the Dunedin Study, a population-representative birth cohort. Lower intelligence predicted more advanced biological age at midlife as captured by perceived facial age, a 10-biomarker algorithm based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), and Framingham heart age (r = 0.1-0.2). Correlations between intelligence and telomere length were less consistent. The associations between intelligence and biological age were not explained by differences in childhood health or parental socioeconomic status, and intelligence remained a significant predictor of biological age even when intelligence was assessed before Study members began their formal schooling. These results suggest that accelerated aging may serve as one of the factors linking low early-life intelligence to increased rates of morbidity and mortality. © The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Gerontological Society of America. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail:
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