Do you ever wonder why some people are blessed with long lives compared to others? Without going into numerous philosophical, sociological and spiritual questions, there is a very interesting part of your body that provides insight into longevity. It’s called a telomere. Research suggests these telomeres which cap the end of our DNA impact how fast we age.
Think of telomeres like the plastic tip on the end of shoe strings. And think of the shoes strings as strands of DNA with all your chromosomes. Each time your cell divides, a little bit of the telomere cap is lost.
Over time, your telomere shortens. It’s supposed to, that is completely normal. Your cells divide a fixed number of times before dying. If your telomeres are healthy and long to begin with, the strand of chromosomes is protected through each cell division. Once cell division has maxed out its number of times to divide, and the telomere length runs out, then cell health breaks down and problems occur. This is known as the Hayflick Phenomenon which refers to the number of times a cell divides until it dies. It correlates with lifespan, and telomeres play an important role.
Researchers have been studying these telomeres for some time and they have known that critically short telomeres cause chromosome instability. Recent research sheds additional insight. Long damaged and dysfunctional telomeres also cause chromosome instability that eventually leads to cell death. If you have a sick cell that really needs to go, I’m not for repairing the telomere with supplements.
How two B-vitamins lengthen telomeres
The fascinating practical piece of information for you and I, is how scientists just discovered that critical nutrients are needed for healthy telomeres. In cell studies, researchers found dysfunctional short and long telomeres more frequently in cells with insufficient folate and thus, reduced methylation. In this particular study, the lack of folate damaged the telomere cap; they were frayed and ‘beat up’ leaving an open door to the chromosomal material.
Now remember, without healthy telomeres, your DNA gets damaged. Before leaving folate, and moving on to B12, I want to make one more comment. Folate is the natural form of the B vitamin you think of when you hear “folic acid.” But folate and “folic acid” are not exactly the same. The folate form is critical for methylation.
Human studies have confirmed that vitamin B12 is also required for healthy telomeres. A recent study published in the European Journal of Nutrition studied telomeres from 60 elderly people. They compared supplement intake with vitamin B6, B12, folate, calcium, and vitamin D versus just vitamin D and calcium. Then they measured homocysteine levels. After a year, they found that individuals who had elevated homocysteine and reduced B vitamin intake, had reduced methylation and shorter telomeres. This group was literally aging faster.
There are very expensive supplements designed to support telomere health, but I suggest two natural B vitamins to improve detoxification. You can get them from eating a salad every day!
In addition to writing a syndicated column on health which reaches 20 million people each week, Suzy is the author of a number of books on natural health.
You may have seen Suzy on The Dr. OZ Show (6 different appearances), The View, The Doctors, Good Morning America Health and hundreds of morning shows. Quotes from Suzy, as well as her articles, have also appeared in major publications including Woman’s Day, Reader’s Digest, OK Magazine!, First for Women, Fitness, Natural Health and Better Homes & Garden and dozens more.
Read more from Suzy at suzyCohen.com
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