How to live longer
Our life lengths are dictated by telomeres, which are tiny sequences at the end of each of our chromosomes, ie our DNA molecules. Each time our cells divide, each telomere slightly decreases in length. When the telomere gets used up, DNA can no longer replicate and the cell dies. That is the normal cell and hence, life cycle. In the cellular level, ageing means telomeres becoming shorter and shorter. Unfortunately, it is not only biological ageing that is linked to telomere activity. The quick rising of the so-called “21st century” diseases, ie widespread chronic conditions and illnesses, are also associated with shorter telomeres.
Is there anything that we can do to slow this process? Can we intervene in DNA length? And if so, what would the benefits be?
Top ten health benefits of keeping our telomeres longer:
1. Brain health: Longer telomeres reshave been associated with slower cognitive decline, hence sharper memory.
2. Cardiovascular health: Telomere activity has been associated with a stronger heart and decreased numbers of cardiovascular disease.
3. Happy healthy life: Depression has been linked to cellular ageing, in multiple studies.
4. Fitness and weight management: Studies in obese children have shown 24% shorter telomeres as compared to non-obese.
5. Sleep hygiene: Studies in patients with sleep apnoea have shown shorter telomeres as compared to the control group.
6. Blood sugar control: Studies in diabetic and pre-diabetic people have repeatedly shown shorter telomeres. Longer telomere length means less chances of getting diabetes and less complications in diabetics.
7. Immunity: The longer your telomeres are the less prone your are to seasonal colds and flu, as well as developing autoimmunity.
8. Oral health: As inflammation increases with shorter telomeres, we now know that gum health and strong teeth are linked to cellular ageing, among others.
9. Musculoskeletal health: Joint health is also linked to healthy telomere size. Studies have shown that telomeres shorten faster in rheumatoid arthritis patients.
10. Anti-ageing: Studies in twins have concluded that bright youthful skin is strongly linked to telomere activity.
So is there a way to intervene to our biological clocks?
Yes! Science has revealed many ways in which we can slow down the process of telomere ageing:
Step one - Keep your homocysteine at bay.
The amino acid that is linked to hearth health. If your level is not in the optimal range, following GP or functional testing, you should take action. Methylated Vitamin B12 and folate, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B2 nad TMG are the supplements I use with my patients to lower homocysteine levels. Please contact your physician/practitioner for dosages and formulas.
Step two - Daily vitamin C.
This powerful antioxidant can decelerate DNA shortening by 50%. Buffered formulas are preferable. Aim for at least 2g per day.
Step three - Eat the rainbow!
Brightly-coloured vegetables are packed with antioxidants and phytochemicals that help to stabilise telomere length. Beta-carotene, in particular, has been shown to have the biggest benefit among other antioxidants. Beta-carotene is found in green, yellow, orange and red vegetables, such as squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, carrots, green leafy vegetables, mango, apricots, bell peppers etc. Make sure you eat a colourful diet every day, as opposed to beige (pasta, bread, white rice). In contrast to the popular “five-a-day” myth, your daily fruit and vegetable intake should be no less than seven to nine portions.
Taking care of your diet and choosing quality nutritional supplements, when needed, you can slow down cellular ageing, and improve health and vitality. Cellular ageing should not necessarily match your biological age and should definitely not exceed it!
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Polonis K, e. (2017). Moderate-to-Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea Is Associated with Telomere Lengthening. - PubMed - NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28822964 [Accessed 30 Aug. 2017].
SC, L. (2017). Association between shortened telomere length and rheumatoid arthritis : A meta-analysis. - PubMed - NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27644953 [Accessed 30 Aug. 2017].
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About Olianna Gourli
Olianna Gourli is a qualified naturopath/nutritional therapist, with a background in science and research (BSc hons.), mBANT, rCNHC). She has great expertise in gastrointestinal issues, such as IBS, hormonal imbalances and women's health, stress and chronic fatigue. She sees clients in her clinics in London, Athens and through Skype.