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Improvements in Nutrition and Lifestyle Increase Telomerase Activity

Posted by Jenn on December 21, 2010

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

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(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 ...

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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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