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Epidemiology and Population Health

Lean body mass but not body fat mass is related with leukocyte telomere length in children



The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between body composition and leukocyte telomere length (LTL) in healthy Chinese children aged 6–11 years.


This cross-sectional study enrolled 406 healthy children (175 girls and 231 boys). The relative telomere length in their peripheral blood leukocytes was determined via quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry was used to determine body fat content and regional fat distribution, appendicular skeletal muscle mass (ASM), bone mineral density (BMD) and bone mineral content (BMC) at the total body (TB) and total body less head (TBLH) levels, and total body lean mass (TBLM) was then determined. ASM/height2 (ASMI) was also calculated.


After adjusting for potential covariates, multiple linear regression analyses revealed that neither body fat content nor regional body fat distribution were significantly associated with LTL (β = −8.48 × 10−6–1.44 × 10−1, p = 0.227–0.959). However, ASM, ASMI, TB BMC/TB BMD, TBLH BMC/TBLH BMD and TBLM were positively associated with LTL (β = 8.95 × 10−6–4.95 × 10−1, p = 0.005–0.035). Moreover, analysis of covariance revealed there was a statistically significant dose-dependent positive association between LTL and ASM, TB BMC/BMD, TBLH BMC/BMD, and TBLM (p-trend = 0.002–0.025).


Skeletal muscle mass and bone mass but not body fat content or distribution were significantly associated with LTL in this pediatric population.

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Fig. 1: Analysis of covariances for the associations of tertiles of skeletal muscle mass and bone mass indexes with leukocyte telomere length (T/S).

Data availability

The datasets generated and/or analyzed in this study are available from the corresponding authors upon reasonable request.


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We thank the research team members from the Department of Nutrition and Food Hygiene and Food Safety and Health Research Center of Southern Medical University for their help in sample collection. We also thank the families who participated in this research. This work was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (81903347 and 81973045) and Natural Science Foundation of Guangdong Province (2021A1515011163).

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Authors and Affiliations



ZZ and JL conceptualized and designed the study. ZH, XL, YZ, GZ and XL collected data and performed analysis. ZH and ZZ drafted the manuscript. JL, ZZ and QW revised the paper. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Zheqing Zhang or Jingjing Liang.

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Hong, Z., Lin, X., Zhou, Y. et al. Lean body mass but not body fat mass is related with leukocyte telomere length in children. Int J Obes 47, 67–74 (2023).

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