The study, which followed the aging process of nearly 2,000 middle-aged and older adults for ten years, found that consumption of micronutrients including vitamin C, folate and potassium was associated with delayed biological aging.
Writing in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, the Korean researchers noted that until now there have been few studies investigating the potential association between nutrient intake and biological aging as measured by leukocyte telomere length (LTL) -- which they suggested "may reflect cumulative oxidative stress and indicate biological aging."
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"We observed longitudinal positive associations between the consumption of vitamin C, folate and potassium and LTL, and these associations were more apparent in middle-aged adults compared to older participants," the team, led by J.-Y. Lee from Kookmin University in South Korea, said.
"Although the associations were moderate because dietary information was collected 10 years before LTL was measured, our findings are supportive, to a certain degree, of the hypothesis that earlier consumption of antioxidant nutrients and B-vitamins involved in one-carbon transfer pathways is associated with longer LTL, suggesting the effects of nutrient intake on biological aging."
Lee and colleagues investigated potential longitudinal associations between the consumption of micronutrients -- including antioxidant nutrients and B vitamins involved in one-carbon transfer pathways -- and LTL.
The population-based cohort, followed for ten years, included 1,958 middle-aged and older Korean men and women aged between 40 and 69 years at baseline.
"We collected dietary information at baseline using a semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire (...) and assessed the consumption of micronutrients, including vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B9 (folate), C and E, as well as calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron and zinc," said the team -- adding that LTL was measured using real-time polymerase chain reaction at the 10-year follow-up examination.
After adjusting for potential confounders, Lee and colleagues found that LTL was positively associated with the consumption of vitamin C (P < 0.05), folate (P = 0.05) and potassium (P = 0.05) in all participants.
"We observed no association between LTL and consumption of vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6 and E, calcium, phosphorus, iron and zinc," they added.
When the team then looked at how the age of participants played a role, using an age-stratified analysis, they found that the association between the consumption of vitamin C, folate and potassium with telomere length was significant only among participants under 50 years of age.
Such a result could partly be explained by a generational difference in consumption of vitamin C, folate and potassium -- though they added that the smaller sample size in older participants than in younger participants may also be a factor given that a previous cross-sectional that showed significant associations for vitamin C and folate intake did not show any age-related effect.
"Our findings suggest that the earlier consumption of vitamin C, folate and potassium, which are abundant in fruits and vegetables, can delay biological aging in middle-aged and older adults," concluded the South Korean team.