Have you heard of telomeres yet? I’ve written about them and lectured to the World Conference on Anti-Aging. It’s big news in the world of anti-aging. In fact, research into telomeres won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2009.
I call telomeres “countdown clocks” because they determine how long your cells can live. Each time a cell divides, your DNA copies itself. Telomeres are caps on the ends of your DNA strands that lay down the blueprint for the copies.
But, each time your cells divide, a little bit of each telomere is used up, and each gets a tiny bit shorter. When your telomeres become too short, DNA can’t copy itself correctly, and the cell stops dividing… and it dies. Overall, the shorter your telomeres, the “older” your body is, regardless of your actual age.(1)
You can alter your aging clock by how you eat and how you live. Obesity and smoking will shorten your telomeres and speed up your countdown clock. But exercise appears to slow telomere shortening,(2) which slows your clock down, too.
This is all great news because we now know the mechanism by which you age, and we can alter it. But there’s another reason this is so significant…
A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that longer telomeres can dramatically reduce your risk of cancer.(3)
There’s a lot of evidence linking short telomeres to a higher risk of cancer. For instance:
- A Virginia study found that breast cancer cells had shorter telomeres than normal cells.(4)
- A research team at Harvard discovered that having short telomeres nearly doubled the risk for bladder cancer.(5)
- According to Japanese researchers, cancers of the mouth begin in cells with short telomeres.(6)
- Even colon cancer cells have shorter telomeres.(7)
Here’s where that new Italian study comes in, because it measured overall cancer risk. These doctors found that people with the longest telomeres were the least likely to develop cancer. In fact, they were more than 10 times less likely to develop cancer than people with short telomeres.(8)
And people with short telomeres are twice as likely to die from cancer.
By taking a few simple steps to promote longer telomeres, you may boost your chances of enjoying your extra years cancer-free.
Exercise is one of the best ways to slow the aging of your cells to a crawl and reduce your risk of cancer. One reason was discovered by researchers in Germany. They found that intensive exercise keeps your cardiovascular system from aging by preventing shortening of telomeres.(9)
Another comes from a study done at the University of California in San Francisco. It found that vigorous exertion protects you from high stress by protecting your telomeres.(10)
Feeding yourself properly can also lengthen your telomeres. Cold-water, high-fat fish like mackerel, wild salmon, lake trout and herring are good sources of omega-3, which can lengthen your telomeres.(11) Also, you can eat plenty of raw nuts and seeds. Walnuts, brazil nuts, almonds and pumpkin seeds are some of my favorites.
Besides exercise and eating the right foods, did you know that supplements also offer protection for your telomeres?
For example, according to the National Institutes of Health, women who simply take a multivitamin have 5 percent longer telomeres than those who don’t.(12)
And nutrients – such as vitamins C and E and resveratrol – also appear to slow the shortening of telomeres.(13,14)
One vitamin is actually linked with lengthening your telomeres, and you don’t even need a pill to get it. It’s vitamin D.(15) Just 10 minutes in the sun gets you 10,000 units.
1. Mary Armanios, Jonathan K. Alder, Erin M. Parry, Baktiar Karim, Margaret A. Strong, and Carol W. Greider. “Short Telomeres are Sufficient to Cause the Degenerative Defects Associated with Aging.” Am J Hum Genet. 2009 December 11; 85(6): 823–832.
2. Song Z., et al, “Lifestyle impacts on the aging-associated expression of biomarkers of DNA damage and telomere dysfunction in human blood,” Aging Cell Aug. 2010; 9(4): 607-15
3. Willeit P., et al, “Telomere Length and Risk of Incident Cancer and Cancer Mortality,” JAMA, 2010; 304(1): 69-75
4. Diehl M.C., et al, “Elevated TRF2 in advanced breast cancers with short telomeres,” Breast Cancer Res Treat. July 13, 2010
5. McGrath M., et al, “Telomere length, cigarette smoking and bladder cancer risk in men and women,” Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. April 2007; 16(4): 815-9
6. Aida J., et al, “Telomere lengths in the oral epithelia with and without carcinoma,” Eur J Cancer Jan. 2010; 46(2): 430-8
7. Rampazzo E., et al, “Relationship between telomere shortening, genetic instability and site of tumour origin in colorectal cancers,”. Br J Cancer Apr. 13, 2010; 102(8):1300-5
8. Mary Armanios, Jonathan K. Alder, Erin M. Parry, Baktiar Karim, Margaret A. Strong, and Carol W. Greider. “Short Telomeres are Sufficient to Cause the Degenerative Defects Associated with Aging.” Am J Hum Genet. 2009 December 11; 85(6): 823–832.
9. Christian Werner, MD et. al. “Physical Exercise Prevents Cellular Senescence in Circulating Leukocytes and in the Vessel Wall.” Circulation. 2009;120:2438-2447
10. Puterman E, Lin J, Blackburn E, O’Donovan A, Adler N, et al. “The Power of Exercise: Buffering the Effect of Chronic Stress on Telomere Length.” PLoS ONE May 2010. 5(5): e10837
11. Ramin Farzaneh-Far, M.D., “Association of Marine Omega-3 Fatty Acid Levels with Telomeric Aging in Patients with Coronary Heart Disease,” JAMA 2010; 303(3):250-257
12. Qun Xu, et al, “Multivitamin use and telomere length in women,” Am J Clin Nutr March 11, 2009
13. Qun Xu, et al, “Multivitamin use and telomere length in women,” Am J Clin Nutr March 11, 2009
14. L Xia, et al, “Resveratrol reduces endothelial progenitor cells senescence through augmentation of telomerase activity by Akt-dependent mechanisms,” British Journal of Pharmacology Jan. 29, 2009; Volume 155 Issue 3, 387–394
15. Richards, J Brent, et al, “Higher serum vitamin D concentrations are associated with longer leukocyte telomere length in women,” Journal of Clinical Nutrition Nov. 2007; Vol. 86, No. 5, 1420-1425
Dr. Al Sears is fast becoming the nation's leading authority on longevity and heart health. His cutting edge breakthroughs and commanding knowledge of alternative medicine have been transforming the lives of his patients for over 15 years.
Dr. Sears currently owns and operates a successful integrative medicine and anti-aging clinic in Wellington, Florida with over 15,000 patients. Over the course of his career, he has developed his own approach to heart health, longevity and anti-aging medicine - combining the best of modern medical science with natural holistic techniques and treatments.