According to parsley health: Research shows that longer telomeres are associated with a longer lifespan! With greater health benefits associated with long telomeres, you may be wondering how to lengthen your telomeres?
Thats what we are discussing here. Read on!
The Contraindications Of Shortened Telomeres
A study published in 2012 by National Health Institute proves that telomeres shorten with age and progressive telomere shortening leads to senescence (the condition or process of deterioration with age), apoptosis (which plays an important role in cancer), or oncogenic transformation of somatic cells (he formation of a cancer), affecting the health and lifespan of an individual.
Okay…it might seem a little bit scary, but that’s nothing to worry about, because we’re going to cover everything related to telomeres starting from
- The definition of it
- What’s the function
- Causes of shortening
- and finally the 5 ways to encourage telomere lengthening and delay shortening
Let’s start with the definition:
What are telomeres?
Telomeres are a specific sequence in our DNA that forms a cap at the two ends of each chromosome. This cap at each end of a chromosome, protects the end of the chromosome from deterioration. When a cell divides, it replicates everything inside of it, including its chromosomes which carry all of the data used to help a cell grow, thrive, and reproduce. Without telomeres to protect them, chromosomes get increasingly damaged, resulting in unsuccessful construction of cells and quicker process of cell death. This, in turn, means an older, less strong body.
- Telomeres are sections of DNA found at the ends of each of our chromosomes.
- In humans the telomere sequence is TTAGGG
- This sequence is usually repeated about 3,000 times and can reach up to 15,000 base pairs in length.
The function of telomeres
Telomeres serve three major purposes
- They help to organize each of our 46 chromosomes in the nucleus of our cells.
- They protect the ends of our chromosomes by forming a cap, much like the plastic tip on shoelaces. If the telomeres were not there, our chromosomes may end up sticking to other chromosomes.
- They allow the chromosome to be replicated properly during cell division
In short: telomeres function is to protect the ends of chromosomes. They prevent one chromosome from binding to another (DNA is sticky). They also don’t have any genetic information. This comes in handy during DNA replication.
Our cells would be lost without telomeres!
Without telomeres, every cell division would mean that some amount of key genetic information would be simply lost. The cell would, in a way or another, get dumber and dumber as it divided and aged. Instead, every time a cell divides, the telomere gets whittled down a bit (your telomeres are shortening even as you read this) but the critical portion of the chromosome is preserved.
There’s a lot, scientists still don’t understand about what regulates the lifespan of a cell, but it’s thought that this continuous shortening of telomeres may act as a cell’s biological clock. A cell divides a certain number of times while the telomeres gets to a critical length, and then the lights go out. It may be telomeres that are falling through the hourglass, not sand.
Causes of shortening
We already know that telomeres shorten with age, so unfortunately there’s nothing we can do to stop it.
Now you might be wondering…are there any other causes? The short answer is yes.
Based on National Institute of Health Studies other factors such as smoking, obesity, environment, nature of profession, diet and stress can also affect the rate of telomere shortening and health.
A study conducted in white blood cells of women indicates that telomeres is lost at an average rate of ‘25.7–27.7 base pairs’ per year and with daily smoking of each pack of cigarettes, an additional ‘5 base pairs’ is lost. So what it tells us is that the telomere shortening caused by smoking one pack of cigarettes a day for a period of 40 years is equivalent to 7.4 years of life
Also obesity is associated with excessive telomere shortening
The excessive loss of telomeres in obese individuals was calculated to be equivalent to 8.8 years of life, an effect which seems to be worse than smoking.
Together these data indicate that obesity has a negative impact on telomeres and boosts drastically the process of aging.
The impact of the external environment
It is proved that that telomere length in traffic police officers was shorter within each age group, relative to telomere length in office workers. Similarly happens with coke-oven workers. Telomere attrition has been associated with increased cancer risk and coke-oven workers are at a greater risk to develop lung cancer. So avoid as much as you can the exposure to harmful agents.
Lastly, let’s talk about the relation of stress with telomeres length.
The difference in telomere length in two groups of women (one group was exposed to stress in their daily life, the other not) was equivalent to 10 years of life, indicating that the women under stress were at a risk for early onset of age-related health problems.
5 ways to encourage telomere lengthening and delay shortening
Maintain a healthy weight
As we said earlier the loss of telomeres in obese individuals is the equivalent to 8.8 years of life. So try to limit portion size to control calorie intake. Add healthy snacks and remove the unhealthy ones. Be as physically active as you can be. Talk to your doctor about your weight if you think that you weigh too much or too little.
Research has shown that exercise can reduce oxidative stress and help preserve DNA. One study found that men in their 50s who were active runners had nearly the same telomere length as men in their 20s while men in their 50s who were sedentary had telomeres that were shorter by 40 percent. Try to implement Cardio. Cardio Is Queen for lengthening your telomeres. In another study a group of jogger and HIIT athletes, after working out three times per week for six months, saw a 3 to 4 percent increase in telomere length
Manage chronic stress
How stress causes telomere shortening is not yet fully understood, but people who face adversity early in life and those who are burdened by chronic caregiving, heavy workloads and financial stress, have shorter telomeres than others, controlling for age and lifestyle factors. To lower stress, try to keep a positive attitude, accept that there are events that you cannot control, learn and practice relaxation techniques; try meditation, yoga, or tai-chi for stress management, learn to manage your time more effectively, make time for hobbies, interests, and relaxation, get enough rest and sleep, don’t rely on alcohol, drugs, or compulsive behaviors to reduce stress, seek out social support and spend enough time with those you enjoy.
Eat a telomere-protective diet
Foods rich in antioxidants like vitamin C (red peppers, kale), anthocyanins (blueberries) and polyphenols (dark chocolate, cloves) – contribute to an overall positive antioxidant balance, protecting DNA from oxidative stress. One study found that a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy products and plant-based protein and low in red and processed meats, sodium, and added sugars, were especially beneficial to healthy cellular aging in women.
While there is no direct evidence that antioxidant supplements improve aging on their own, there is evidence that some supplements support the body’s natural anti-aging mechanisms by helping the body make its own antioxidants. In particular, N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) supports the body’s production of one of the few and essential internal cellular antioxidants, Glutathione. That said, supplement quality is highly variable and choosing the right one is best done with the guidance of an expert.
Why isn’t there a telomere lengthening pill?
The answer is, the body is smarter than that. Just adding in telomerase may be dangerous, as cells that develop the ability to keep their telomeres intact forever are considered “immortal cells,” aka cancerous cells. While healthy cells naturally die off and regenerate, cancer cells tend to stick around and that’s when they start to cause trouble. Thus, there is a lot more we need to know before focusing on a quick-fix like supplementing telomerase.
- Telomere length shortens with age.
- Rate of telomere shortening may indicate the pace of aging.
- Lifestyle factors such as smoking, lack of physical activity, obesity, stress, exposure to pollution, etc. can potentially increase the rate of telomere shortening, cancer risk, and pace of aging.
- Dietary restriction, appropriate diet (high fiber, plenty of antioxidants, lean/low protein, adding soy protein to diet), and regular exercise can potentially reduce the rate of telomere shortening, disease risk, and pace of aging.
Here are 5 foods you can consider adding to your diet
That’s all for this article!
Let me know if this gave you a good explanation of telomeres and helped you create healthy habits for yourself. If you need some motivation or personal feedback join me for a class.
In happiness and health,
Check out my flexibility classes and online coaching.