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Faculty & Staff Honors

Faculty & Staff Honors

Washington Faculty Wins Minority Research Award for Study on Meat and Leukocyte Telomere Length

Dr. Amanda Fretts, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington School of Public Health, won best poster in the clinical category at the recent Network for Minority Investigators Annual Workshop and Meeting, part of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Amanda Fretts
[Photo: Dr. Amanda Fretts]

The poster was titled “The Associations of Processed Meat and Unprocessed Red Meat with Short Leukocyte Telomere Length among American Indians: the Strong Heart Family Study.”

Telomere length progressively shortens throughout the lifespan with each cell division, and leukocyte telomere length (LTL) is often used as a biomarker of cellular aging, according to Dr. Fretts.  LTL is related to many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

However, the relationship of LTL with risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, such as diet, is unknown. Researchers previously reported that intake of processed meat is associated with a higher risk of diabetes (and unprocessed red meat is not associated with diabetes risk).

The purpose of this project was to build on those findings, and researchers were most interested in assessing the association of LTL with meat intake, Dr. Fretts said. They found that after adjustment for other factors,  consumption of processed meat was negatively associated with LTL. They observed no association of LTL and unprocessed red meat intake.

These findings suggest that lifestyle factors, such as intake of processed meat, influence LTL, a potential mediator for several age-related chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes.

Dr. Fretts’ collaborators were Dr. Barbara Howard (Medstar Health Research Institute & Georgetown & Howard Universities Center for Translational Sciences), Dr. David Siscovick (New York Academy of Medicine and professor emeritus of epidemiology at the University of Washington), Dr. Lyle Best (Missouri Breaks Research Industries), Dr. Shirley Beresford (Senior Associate Dean, UW School of Public Health), Dr. Mihriye Mete (MedStar Health Research Institute & Georgetown & Howard Universities Center for Translational Sciences), Dr. Sigal Eilat-Adar (Zinman College for Physical Education and Sports, Israel), Dr. Nona Sottodehnia (University of Washington), and Dr. Jinying Zhao (Tulane University).