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  • Writer's pictureMollie Maxwell

Telomeres and ageing.

Telomeres are specific DNA -protein structures found at both ends of each chromosome. They play a vital role in preserving the information in our genome (our hereditary characteristics that determine who we are.) During our lives , small portions of our telomeres are lost during normal cell division and eventually there telomere reaches a critical limit and the cell ages. Therefore our telomere length serves as a biological clock. The longer the telomeres, the less biologically old you are .

What causes the telomeres to shorten and is it possible to slow down the process of telomere shortening ?

Certain lifestyle factors increase the rate of telomere shortening, by introducing damage to DNA and therefore affect the health and lifespan of an individual. Such lifestyle factors are :

Smoking , which increases oxidative stress and the pace of the ageing process.

Obesity: The telomeres in obese women are significantly shorter than lean women of the same age group and their loss of telomeres could be calculated to be equivalent to more than eight years less lifespan.

Stress: Stress hormones cause oxidative damage and accelerated telomere shortening, indicating that long exposure to stress increases the risk of early- onset age related health problems.

What can we do to slow down telomere shortening and therefor also the biological ageing process ?

Dietary fibre positively impacts telomeres, replacing some protein with soy protein, avoiding polyunsaturated fatty acids especially linoleic acid, increasing the consumption of Omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin E and C beta carotene. Antioxidants can potentially protect the telomeres from damage, so lots of brightly coloured vegetables are helpful. Restricting food intake has a positive impact on health and longevity, it can reduce the onset of age- related diseases and may increase healthy lifespan. Regular moderate exercise is associated with reduced oxidative stress, can stabilisestelomere proteins and help to reduce the pace of ageing.

Older people with shorter telomeres have three times the risk of heart disease and eight times the risk of infectious diseases. Smoking, pollution, a lack of exercise, obesity, stress and an unhealthy diet all contribute to telomere shortening and an increased risk of some cancer.

By contrast, we can reduce our risks , preserve telomeres and reduce the pace of ageing by considering eating less, including antioxidants in our diet as well as more fibre, soy protein and healthy fats , stay lean and active , stress-free and enjoying a Mediterranean style diet with lots of fis, berries, seeds, nuts, olive oil, green tea and foods rich in Vitamins C and E.


Ref:

https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2015/01/telomere- extension-turns-back-aging-clock-in-cultured-cells.html https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3370421/

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