The relationship between fruit and vegetable intake and telomere length was examined using a cross-sectional design and an NHANES random sample of 5448 U.S. adults. Fruit and vegetable (F&V) consumption was assessed using a 24 h recall, and telomere length, an index of cellular aging, was measured using the quantitative polymerase chain reaction method. Telomere length was linearly related to F&V intake when combined (F = 22.7, p
< 0.0001) and also when separated as fruit (F = 7.2, p
< 0.0121) or vegetables (F = 15.4, p
< 0.0005), after adjusting for covariates. Specifically, telomeres were 27.8 base pairs longer for each 100 g (3.5 ounces) of F&V consumed. Because each additional year of chronological age was associated with telomeres that were 14.9 base pairs shorter, when women and men were analyzed together, results indicated that a 100 g (3.5 oz) per day increment in F&V corresponded with 1.9 years less biological aging. When the 75th percentile of F&V intake was compared to the 25th, the difference was 4.4 years of cellular aging. When separated by sex, fruits and vegetables were both related to telomere length in women, but only vegetable intake was predictive of telomere length in men. In conclusion, evidence based on a random sample of U.S. adults indicates that the more the servings of F&V, the longer telomeres tend to be.
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