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Archive for the ‘Aging Prevention / Anti-Aging’ Category

Plant foods alter gene expression to curb inflammation

Posted by Jenn on December 28, 2010



Inappropriately high levels of inflammation contribute to many of the chronic diseases of the modern world. Inflammation plays an important role in the development of atherosclerotic plaque, and inflammatory mediators have been shown to fuel tumor growth. [1] Certain characteristics of the Western diet are known to have pro-inflammatory effects – the high content of omega-6 fatty acids, for example, due to excessive oil and animal products, leads to overproduction of inflammatory molecules. Also, obesity is associated with chronic inflammation. Fat tissue produces a great number of both hormones and inflammatory molecules, and obesity-associated inflammation is said to be the link between excess body fat and chronic disease. [2]

fruits and vegetables; Flickr: karimian

Eating more plant foods and fewer animal products and oils is advisable to avoid these pro-inflammatory effects. Omega-3 fatty acids, in contrast to omega-6 fatty acids, are known to have anti-inflammatory effects. Fruits and vegetables are known to be protective against chronic disease due to their low calorie density and high quantity of micronutrients and antioxidants, and have been associated with reduced circulating inflammatory molecules. A recent study showed that fruit and vegetable consumption alters circulating levels of inflammatory molecules by affecting gene expression in circulating white blood cells, limiting the production of inflammatory molecules by these cells.

Young adults reported their usual food intake, and the researchers correlated this to a number of inflammatory markers in blood, as well as expression of a number of pro-inflammatory genes in white blood cells. The subjects were divided into groups based on their quantity of fruit and vegetable consumption, and inflammatory markers (C-reactive protein, homocysteine, and TNFα) were 40% lower in the group with the highest (vs. lowest) fruit and vegetable consumption. Moreover, expression of four pro-inflammatory genes (ICAM1, ILR1, TNFα, and NF-κB1) were significantly lower in the circulating white blood cells of the high fruit and vegetable consumers. [3] C-reactive protein and plasma homocysteine are known risk factors for heart disease, and NF-κB is a key promoter of atherosclerosis development.[4]

This data suggests that plant foods have anti-inflammatory effects that have not yet been discovered.

We cannot underestimate the importance of high-nutrient foods. Our genes are inherited, but the expression of those genes is modified by our environment. Food components interact with our genes to affect the state of our health, and this study suggests that high-nutrient foods drive gene expression patterns that reduce inflammation and therefore risk of chronic disease.


1. Sgambato, A. and A. Cittadini, Inflammation and cancer: a multifaceted link. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci, 2010. 14(4): p. 263-8.
2. Hajer, G.R., T.W. van Haeften, and F.L. Visseren, Adipose tissue dysfunction in obesity, diabetes, and vascular diseases. Eur Heart J, 2008. 29(24): p. 2959-71.
3. Hermsdorff, H.H., et al., Fruit and vegetable consumption and proinflammatory gene expression from peripheral blood mononuclear cells in young adults: a translational study. Nutr Metab (Lond), 2010. 7: p. 42.
4. Kutuk, O. and H. Basaga, Inflammation meets oxidation: NF-kappaB as a mediator of initial lesion development in atherosclerosis. Trends Mol Med, 2003. 9(12): p. 549-57.

Posted in Aging Prevention / Anti-Aging, In the Media, Inflammation, Women's Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

MEDICAL ADVICE: Becoming Ageless

Posted by Jenn on December 24, 2010

(Source: By DESMOND EBANKS M.D., Special to the West Hartford News; Friday, November 26, 2010)


Benjamin Franklin first stated that the only two certainties in life are death and taxes. While that may be more true than not, there is another certainty we all experience during the time that we are alive; namely, aging. Technically, we begin aging from the time we are born. But those first couple of decades typically offers welcome improvements in our maturity, intellectual prowess and physical capabilities. Aging, as we commonly think about it, begins in earnest in our 30’s or 40’s. That is when hormones begin to decline and generally when we may first notice subtle changes in our appearance. At the same time diminution in our physical faculties, stamina and sexual potency signals the beginning of that relentless journey downhill.

Few of us want to just go quietly into the mist. Since the days of Cleopatra and Ponce de León, if not before, people have been seeking the elusive Fountain of Youth. The longer we can maintain our youth, the less functional decline we will encounter and the less likely we will develop a chronic disease and die. And, nearly all of us are dying of chronic diseases; not old age. Genetically, we are programmed to live for 110 or 120 years. To be sure, there is no shortage of dubious promises and untested remedies to increase longevity that are available for the naïve or ill-informed. But recent scientific discoveries are unraveling the secrets of aging on a cellular level and may identify ways to slow it down.

It has been abundantly clear for some time that a healthy lifestyle with regular, vigorous exercise and a diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables can reduce your risk of chronic diseases and premature death. According to the World Health Organization, 80-90 percent of cardiovascular disease and nearly 40 percent of cancers, the two top killers of people worldwide, could be prevented with healthy lifestyle modifications. But is there an underlying biological process that can be exploited to improve, restore and prolong youthful vitality?

In 2009, the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to Elizabeth Blackburn, a molecular scientist and two of her colleagues for their work in uncovering the role of telomeres and the enzyme telomerase in aging, cancer and chronic diseases. Telomeres are snippets of DNA at the ends of chromosomes that function, in part, like the plastic tips on the end of shoelaces, providing stability and protection to the genetic material. Telomerase is the enzyme responsible for rebuilding and maintaining telomeres. Most normal human adult cells do not have enough active telomerase to maintain telomere length indefinitely, so each time a cell divides, the telomere shortens until a critical length is reached, signaling cell senescence or cell death. Telomere length is currently the best measure of your actual biological age compared to chronological age. It is also an important barometer of your overall health.

There is pretty clear scientific evidence pointing to an important role for telomerase activity and telomere length in the causes of human disease. Regularly, new studies are published demonstrating the correlation between telomere length and health. In a recent analysis of a subset of the National Long Term Care Survey, telomere length was associated with disability, functional status, heart disease and cancer. A recent study found a correlation between telomere length and years of healthy life. An intriguing connection has also been observed between telomere length and levels of psychological stress. This is particularly relevant since individuals subject to chronic psychological stress show a shortened lifespan and more rapid onset of diseases typically associated with aging. Researchers in Italy recently found a direct association with short telomeres and an increased risk of developing and dying from cancer. The risk of dying was eleven times higher in those with the shortest telomeres. It then stands to reason that therapies directed at preserving telomere length may slow aging and retard the onset of age-related diseases.

So what can you do to age more youthfully? Exercise has been found to increase telomerase activity. Combining the health benefits of regular exercise with a plant-based diet in a comprehensive lifestyle plan was shown to increase telomerase activity by 30 percent and improve telomere length maintenance. One of the best nutrients for activating your telomerase is trusty omega-3. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association followed about 600 people over a full five years. They found that daily supplements of omega-3 fish oil significantly increased telomerase activity. Vitamin supplements have also been found to increase telomere length. Two separate studies in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported longer telomeres in individuals taking vitamin D, E, C and B12. Managing stress and maintaining optimal hormone balance also plays a critical role. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Aging Prevention / Anti-Aging, Heart Disease, In the Media, Research/Data, Supplements (Vitamins & Minerals) | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Improvements in Nutrition and Lifestyle Increase Telomerase Activity

Posted by Jenn on December 21, 2010

Animation of the structure of a section of DNA...

Image via Wikipedia

(Source: Longevity Medicine Review;; by Lara Pizzorno, MDiv, MA, LMT)

Telomeres, the protective DNA–protein complexes at the end of chromosomes, are required for DNA replication and to protect chromosomes from nuclease degradation, end-to-end fusion, and the initiation of cellular senescence. Since telomeres shorten with each cell division, telomere length is a key indicator of mitotic cell aging and viability.

Telomere length has emerged as a prognostic indicator of disease risk, progression, and premature mortality in humans. Shortened telomeres are a precursor to the initiation of many types of cancer and are predictive of increased risk of bladder, head and neck, lung and renal-cell cancers; poor clinical outcomes in breast and colorectal cancer; recurrence of prostate cancer in patients undergoing radical prostatectomy; and decreased survival in patients with coronary heart disease and infectious disease1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8.

However, even cells with shortened telomeres can remain genetically stable if the enzyme telomerase, which adds telomeric repeat sequences to the chromosomal DNA ends preserving telomere length and healthy cell function, is fully operational.1 9 10

The converse is also true. Decreased telomerase activity alone has been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, independent of chronological age. In a study involving healthy women, telomerase activity, but not telomere length, in immune cells (specifically, peripheral blood mononuclear cells or PBMCs) was inversely associated with six major cardiovascular disease risk factors.11 Telomerase activity is also adversely affected by obesity and insulin resistance, another way in which both result in decreasing telomere length.12 Thus telomerase activity may offer an earlier prognosticator of genomic stability and long-term cellular viability than telomere length.

Can telomerase activity be increased by improvements in diet and lifestyle?

Published in the November 2008 issue of Lancet Oncology, Dr. Dean Ornish‘s latest research, a pilot study on the effects of dietary and lifestyle changes in 30 men with low risk prostate cancer, suggests the answer is a resounding “Yes!” PBMC telomerase activity in these men increased 29.84% within just 3 months of making significant, yet simple, changes in diet and lifestyle.1

Telomerase-Enhancing Diet, Supplement and Lifestyle Program

After a 3-day intensive residential retreat, the men were placed on a low-fat (10% of calories from fat), whole foods, plant-based diet, centered on vegetables, fruits, unrefined grains, and legumes. Intake of refined carbohydrates was minimized. The diet was supplemented with soy (one daily serving of tofu plus 58 grams of a fortified soy protein powdered beverage), fish oil (3 grams daily), vitamin E (100 IU daily), selenium (200 μg daily), and vitamin C (2 grams daily).

In addition, subjects participated in moderate aerobic exercise (walking 30 min/day, 6 days/week); stress management (gentle yoga-based stretching, breathing, meditation, imagery, and progressive relaxation techniques 60 min/day, 6 days/week), and a 1-hour group support session once per week. Participants also met with staff 4 hours per week and had one weekly telephone contact with a study nurse.

Compliance was excellent for both lifestyle and dietary recommendations. After 3 months, subjects reported consuming an average11.6% of calories from fat per day, exercising an average of 3.6 hours each week, and practicing stress management techniques an average of 4.5 hours each week. All medications remained unchanged throughout the 3-month trial, with the exception of participant whose statin drug dosage was decreased. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Aging Prevention / Anti-Aging, Cancer Prevention, Dementia, Diabetes, Exercise, Heart Disease, Parkinson's Disease, Research/Data, Telomerase | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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 ...

Image via Wikipedia

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.

Posted in Aging Prevention / Anti-Aging, Cancer Prevention, Telomerase | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »