Length DOES Matter (longer is better)
Telomere extension is the latest HealthHAX™ for living a healthier, longer life. Live young through telomere extension! What are telomeres? Telomeres are the DNA repeats (TTAGGG)n that cap the end of your chromosomes. Telomeres preserve chromosomal integrity and stability. Without telomeres, bad things happen to your chromosomes. This is important for your quality of life. In fact, the folks who figured out the importance of telomeres won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2009:
TWO OPPOSING FORCES are responsible for the integrity of your telomeres:
- THE BAD: Telomeres become shorter by 50-100 base-pairs with every cell division. That is, every time your DNA replicates or copies itself, the telomeres become a little shorter; every time any of your cells divide, your telomeres lose DNA and become shorter. Because of this, your chromosomes are losing their structural integrity and stability as your cells divide: as you age, your chromosomes are losing their integrity. Think DNA changes, think diseases…think cancer.
As you might imagine, if the integrity and stability of your chromosomes relies on the integrity of their telomeres, cell division will eventually cause telomeres to become critically shortened. This will cause corruption of your chromosomes. That would result in death. So there must be a way to lengthen your telomeres – see #2, next.
- THE GOOD: In order to maintain telomere length during cell division, your cells use an enzyme-ribonucleoprotein complex with reverse transcriptase activity – called “telomerase.” Telomerase adds back the TTAGGG DNA repeats. Telomerase maintains your telomeres, and keeps your chromosomes healthy. No telomerase results in short telomeres. Short telomeres result in cell senescence. Telomerase good 🙂
That Balance Regulates Your AGING CLOCK
Thus, your cellular telomerase levels determine the rate of cellular senescence: the more active your telomerase is, the longer your telomeres, the longer the life of your cells; the less they age. The more active your telomerase, the better.
In other words, this balance between the length of your telomeres and your telomerase activity regulates your aging clock.
The longer your telomeres, the longer your life!
And, because age-related chromosomal changes lead to age-related diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other dementias, the length of your telomeres is correlated with your risk of these diseases. Clinical studies are beginning to bear this out. Longer telomeres = lower risk; shorter telomeres = higher risk. We are now discovering – and by “we” I mean we humans, with our research scientists – we are discovering that some of those “anti-aging” nutritional supplements actually DO slow the aging process…perhaps by telomere extension. Keep reading for the evidence…
The longer your telomeres, the healthier your life!
But so far, some of this is merely inference … speculation … educated guesses. Is there evidence?
What real evidence is there for the role of either telomeres or telomerase in aging, or any of these diseases of old age?
And — most importantly — if these factors do impact aging and health, do we have any control over our telomeres or telomerase activity?
What Can You Do to Maintain Your Telomeres?
Let’s clarify the two questions:
- What evidence is there indicating that telomere length predicts lifespan? Or disease?
- And do we have any control over our telomere length?
Before we return to our questions, further clarification is in order. Note that research on the role of telomeres and telomerase in DNA biology is a relatively new field. Whereas we do not yet completely understand exactly how telomeres are involved in DNA replication, responses to DNA damage, and human aging, or how telomeres relate to the formation of human cancers or other chronic diseases of aging, it is clear that telomeres play a central role in all of these.
- Telomeres shorten during aging of human fibroblasts in culture (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2342578).
- Again in culture, we can extend the life of normal human cells by merely introducing telomerase (lengthens telomeres) into them (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9454332).
- In birds, telomere length in early life very accurately predicts ultimate lifespan (http://www.pnas.org/content/109/5/1743)
- If we turn off telomerase (as in conditional knockout mice), it causes premature aging: with degeneration of multiple systems, including immune, digestive, and neurological http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v464/n7288/fig_tab/nature08982_F2.html
- Conversely, when we take those same telomerase-deficient mice and restore their telomerase later in life, the degeneration of their tissues is halted, and the tissues are restored!
Telomere Length & Mortality in People:
- People with shorter average telomere length (ATL) have much higher mortality: more than 310% increased death rate due to heart disease; and more than 850% increase death rate from infections. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12573379
- Another study examined the association between ATL in white blood cells and mortality in more than 3,000 adults aged 50-84, in the US. They found an increased risk of death from any cause of 10% for every decrease of 1 kilobase pair in ATL. That risk increased to 30% for death due to diseases other than cardiovascular or cancer! https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4679150/
Telomere Length & Health in People:
- People with longer ATL not only have longer life span, but more years of healthy life: A study of more than 3,000 people aged 70-79 compared ATL to self-reported health status. There was a good correlation between longer telomere length and better overall health: longer telomeres = better health.
- Presumably due to the role of telomeres in cellular aging, telomere-shortening in humans has been associated with increased risk of many chronic, debilitating diseases, including:
Telomere Extension Means Health Extension
It is uncertain whether the correlation between shorter telomeres and diseases in these studies reflects a direct causal relationship, reflects the aging process, or simply reflects the association of these diseases with reduced physical activity. That is, we already know that all of those diseases are more likely if you are inactive: if you don’t use your body or your brain, bad things happen…dementia, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, etc.
Regardless, you want longer telomeres!
Bottom line? Telomere length does matter! And your telomere length is maintained by adequate levels of telomerase.
So, let’s get to the important question:
Telomere Extension How To
Can You Increase Your Telomerase Activity?
Glad you asked. Some very interesting studies have been published in the scientific literature in just the past few years.
Here are the most interesting research results:
- Healthy Lifestyle for Telomere Extension
A study published by Dean Ornish and colleagues in the Lancet Oncology journal suggest that changes to lifestyle (that is, healthy improvements in lifestyle) can result in telomere extension. Despite the small size of this cohort, the findings were statistically significant. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24051140
- Regular Exercise for Telomere Extension
Regular exercise is correlated with longer telomeres. And the higher your VO2max, the longer your telomeres. Endurance athletes have the highest VO2max.
- Diet and Nutrition for Telomere Extension
Finally, and this is pretty exciting for those of us who simply cannot become endurance athletes to lengthen our telomeres: diet and nutrition seem to affect telomere length!
A study of 4,676 women reveals that greater adherence to the Mediterranean Diet is associated with longer telomeres. Results were reported in the British Medical Journal in 2014: http://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g6674
- Ashwagandha for Telomere Extension
A group at the Center for Preclinical and Translational Medical Research in India reported increasing telomerase in human cells by 45%. Forty-five percent!! How? Ashwagandha root extract extends telomeres. Seems that the practitioners of Ayurveda have had it right for hundreds of years!Safety of Ashwagandha in humans has already been established.
Now, we need more clinical studies to confirm whether those life-extending effects seen in animal studies and human cell-culture studies also apply to whole humans.
So … what’s all this mean?
If this is your goal (and why wouldn’t it be?!), here are the recommendations for telomere extension:
- Keep fit! Duh! Work out. Regularly. People with active lives have higher telomerase activity, longer telomeres, and longer, healthier lives. No surprise there. And while you’re at it, your brain will work better, too.
- Eat healthy! Duh! People who stick to the Mediterranean Diet have longer telomeres and live longer, and healthier lives. Approximate the Mediterranean Diet as much as possible.
- Add some root! And for me, I have started including a healthy scoop of powdered Ashwagandha root in every one of my daily smoothies. I started doing that to help build lean muscle and strength [Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 2015], but I’ll keep adding Ashwagandha for the other health benefits, including these potential anti-aging benefits!
How Long Are YOUR Telomeres?
Are you curious? For less than $100 you can have your telomeres tested to reveal your “cellular age.” TeloYears offers the test, but also provides an awesome resource for more information on telomere extension.
For transparency: Sacred Herbals™ has no financial or other relationship with TeloYears, and links do not constitute endorsement.
Because the effects of your activities on your telomerase levels and the length of your telomeres happens “outside” of your genome, these are just another example of Epigenetics Hacks! And specifically, all of the things described above, to increase your telomerase levels and the length of your telomeres, also improve the health of your brain: they’re Brain Hacks! It’s all good 🙂
More Research Coming …
Telomere extension is a hot area for health hacks research. I will keep y’all updated on the latest telomere and telomerase research (and other HealthHAX™) right here.