For centuries, tales of the fountain of youth have existed. We want to live as long as possible with robust health. Forget anti-aging creams and beauty routines. New research into telomeres shows that nutrition can actually alter your DNA to slow the aging process and even turn back the clock.
What are Telomeres?
Telomeres are repeating sequences of DNA at the end of chromosomes, like the plastic coating on the end of a shoestring. Each time a cell divides and replicates, the telomere loses some of its length. When a telomere has divided too many times, a poor state of health and diseases of aging set in.
The maximum age you could live to depends on the length of your telomeres. Various stressors, like obesity, infections, acute emotional stress, oxidative stress, high homocysteine and chronic low-grade inflammation accelerate telomere shortening. While it is impossible to avoid all of life’s stress completely, try to reduce it as much as possible and practice good stress management techniques like prayer or meditation. Exercising regularly is another way to prevent telomere breakdown and even possibly extend their length.
Nourish Your Telomeres
While eating healthily, exercising regularly, and practicing stress management techniques are essential, an emerging field of nutrition research is showing that certain nutrients can extend telomeres, improve their quality and reverse aging. Add these nutrients into your supplement routine to give your telomeres a boost. It’s never too soon –or too late– to start anti-aging!
1. Antioxidants - It’s important to have adequate antioxidants in your diet to offset free-radical damage, oxidative stress, and inflammation that cause premature telomere shortening. Antioxidants work together, so it’s ideal to get a wide array of them. Research has shown that vitamin C and tocotrienol vitamin E are two of the most important antioxidants to your telomeres. Vitamin C supplementation has proven to boost telomerase enzyme activity, which can lengthen telomeres and add more years to your life. Human studies of tocotrienol supplementation have also shown potent anti-aging potential by extending telomere length while simultaneously fighting DNA damage and cancer, and increasing the activity of collagen producing cells called fibroblasts.
2. Vitamin D - Vitamin D works with other antioxidants to support your telomeres. In one study of 2,100 identical twins, those that had adequate levels of vitamin D had average lifespans five years longer than their deficient twin. This is, at least in part, because vitamin D prevents excessive wear and tear to telomeres. Vitamin D is a partner in the antioxidant defense system of cells, helping to clear free radicals and protect them from DNA damage that can lead to telomere shortening and cancer.
3. DHA Fish Oil - It’s beneficial for everyone to take a DHA fish oil supplement, but especially if you want to extend your telomeres. In a human study, researchers measured subjects’ telomeres and found that those who consumed the most omega-6 fatty acids also had the shortest telomeres. The typical American diet provides too much omega-6 from vegetable oils, grains, chicken, corn, soy, and packaged foods. Long ago, the ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3’s (DHA and EPA) was about 4:1. Today, it is about 20:1 or worse. This imbalance toward too many omega-6’s causes inflammation that leads to disease and shortened telomeres. Adding in more omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil can help balance the ratio and extend your telomeres.
4. Multiple Vitamin - Finally, consider filling in your nutritional gaps with a high quality multiple vitamin. A new study of women showed that those who regularly took a multiple vitamin had telomeres that were 5.1% longer than the women who relied on food alone. A multivitamin that provides methylated B vitamins is best.
Human studies showed that men and women that had the highest levels of folate (vitamin B7) had longer telomeres than those low in folate. Folate and vitamin B12 play multiple roles in supporting stability of telomeres. Telomeres need an adequate supply of methyl donors, like a car needs gasoline. Your brain also requires a large supply of methyl donors to maintain a positive, stable mood. You can assume that if your mood has started to slip, it is a warning sign that you should add more coenzyme B vitamins so you have enough to support your telomeres.
It’s never too late to start anti-aging yourself. Learning to nourish your telomeres with the right nutrients could not only extend your life, but extend your good health for years. Now the only question remains, what could you accomplish with a few more years?