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Lifestyle changes, including a plant-based diet, improve activity of a useful enzyme,Telomerase

Posted by Jenn on December 21, 2010

Scheme of a Chromosome. (1) Chromatid. One of ...

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Telomerase is an enzyme that helps to protect chromosomes, the structures that hold our genes. If chromosomes aren’t adequately protected, the risk of getting certain cancers and of having the cancer progress more rapidly seems to be higher. Additionally, telomerase repairs the part of the chromosome, the telomeres, that controls longevity. We know that a healthy lifestyle can reduce risk of many chronic diseases, including cancer.

A recent small study suggests that lifestyle changes may improve the activity of the telomerase enzyme and that this could, at least partially, explain the relationship between diet and cancer risk. Dean Ornish, MD, Head of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, studied 30 men with low-risk prostate cancer. These men did not receive surgery or radiation therapy because their prostate cancer did not appear to be progressing and was not causing symptoms. For three months, the men followed a program that required them to make significant lifestyle changes. They ate a lowfat, near-vegetarian diet (Subjects did use fish oil supplements.) rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, dried beans, and soy products. They exercised moderately and practiced techniques, such as yoga, to reduce stress.

Following this three-month period, the men’s blood level of telomerase was 29 percent higher than at the start of the study. According to Ornish, this is the first study showing that lifestyle changes can increase telomerase. Since this enzyme may play an important role in reducing risk of cancer development and progression, larger studies will probably be conducted to confirm these potentially important results.

Ornish D, Lin J, Daubenmier J, et al. Nov 2008. Increased telomerase activity and comprehensive lifestyle changes: a pilot study. Lancet Oncol 9(11):1048-57.

Source: Reed Mangels “Lifestyle changes, including a plant-based diet, improve activity of a useful enzyme“. Vegetarian Journal. 20 Dec, 2010.


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