For the first time in modern medicine history the scientific community is able to predict biological age in humans with great accuracy by measuring telomere length. The latest scientific article in Nature February 2011, explains this underlying premise.
Why does Telomere Length Matters?
There is an association with telomere length that have been reported for essential hypertension, diabetes, insulin resistance, obesity, atherosclerosis, vascular dementia, and mortality due to heart disease.
Studies have reported a significant or borderline inverse associations between telomere length and diabetes, glucose, insulin, diastolic blood pressure, carotid intima-media thickness, and interleukin-6 ( inflammatory marker ).
What are Telomeres ?
Telomeres are sections of DNA at the end of each chromosome that serve as a cap to the genetic material. Their purpose is critical to the life of the cell in that they serve as protective buffers that keep the ends of the chromosomes from becoming attached to each other or rearranging. If cells divided without telomeres, they would lose the necessary information at the end of each chromosome. In this way, telomeres prevent chromosomal fraying and subsequent unravel of vital genomic information and accelerated aging.
Every time a cell replicates, its telomere will become shorter, eventually causing cell death once the telomere attrition has reached a critical length. It is estimated that human telomeres lose about 100 base pairs from their telomeric DNA during each mitosis (cell division). After approximately 125 mitotic divisions, the telomeres would be completely gone which is why normal cells will eventually die after healthy division.
Shorter telomeres imply a shorter life span for a cell, essentially giving it a finite lifespan, depending on the number of cell divisions left within each telomere.
Cells can maintain the length of their telomeres with an enzyme called telomerase, which adds genetic material at the end of the DNA strand, thus lengthening the number of times it can replicate, which ultimately prolongs the life of the cell. It is not active in most cells, but is active in stem cells, germ cells and hair follicles.
What are the Nutritional Implications on Telomere Length and Repair?
An inflammatory diet or one that increases oxidative stress will shorten telomeres faster. This would include refined carbohydrates, fast foods, processed foods, sodas, artificial sweeteners, trans fats and saturated fats.
A diet with a large amount and variety of antioxidants that improves oxidative defense and reduces oxidative stress will slow telomere shortening. Consumption of 10 servings of fresh and relatively uncooked fruits and vegetables, mixed fiber, monounsaturated fats, omega 3 fatty acids, cold water fish, and high quality vegetable proteins will preserve telomere length.
In addition caloric restriction is advised to reduce total daily caloric intake by about 25% combined with an exercise program that increases caloric restriction by about 15 %.
Fasting for 12 hours each night at least 4 days per week is recommended.
The Following Will Slow Telomere Shortening
• Bioidentical Hormone Replacement
• Stop Tobacco
• A good antioxidant defense program: Most antioxidants will help improve cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and high cholesterol.
• Weight Loss
• Stress Reduction
• Optimal Paleolithic Diet
• Avoid trans fats, SFA, sodas, refined CHO etc.
• Possibly Omega 3 FA and MUFA ( monounsaturated fatty acids )
What Lifestyle Modifications are Likely to be Helpful ?
• One should achieve ideal body weight and body composition with low body fat (less than 22 % for women and less than 16 % for men).
• Decreasing visceral fat is very important.
• Regular aerobic and resistance exercise for at least one hour per day.
• Sleeping for at least 8 hours per night
• Stress reduction
• Discontinuation of all tobacco products
• Bio-identical hormone replacement therapy will increase telomere length.
Age adjusted telomere length is the best method to date to determine accurately a person’s biological age using structural analysis of chromosomal damage in the telomere. Serial evaluation of telomere length will determine how rapidly one ages relative to a normal population. Therapies directed at slowing the loss of telomere length will slow aging and age-related diseases.
Reduce your health risks now. Learn more about personalized physician supervised preventative programs and the science behind functional medicine at Milwaukee Center for Longevity Medicine.
Alexandra Solano, MD