Diet and telomer length
How to live long and healthy, or what your telomeres need
I am not a big fan of recommending popular science books. They often present very extreme views, and for a person who does not have a distante and objective approach to scientific subjects can lead to equally extreme views. However, there are several books that have a balanced approach, for example, "Telomeres and Health". One of the co-authors is Nobel laureate Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, which I think speaks for itself. Everything presented in the book is supported by research and has no extremes in it. Therefore, if you are looking for an interesting book on nutrition, health and a holistic approach to them, you can easily reach for Telomeres and health.
This is a topic that I have been very interested in lately - what effect nutrition has on aging processes.
Each of us (at least I think so) wants to live as long as possible, but at the same time in the best possible health. There are many scientifically proven methods to achieve this, or at least increase your chances of a long healthy life.
To begin with, I want you not to associate aging only with wrinkles, say that this is a shallow topic and not be interested in how you influence aging.
Aging is a process in which the quality and efficiency of all cells in our body decreases. These are not only skin cells but also those:
- located in the joints, determining whether you will be able to run at the age of 60 or not,
- bone building, determining if and when osteoporosis develops
- those in the brain that determine whether you will have a higher risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia or Alzheimer's
- stem cells conditioning recovery processes
- eye cells determining the quality of vision
- immune cells
- cells of the circulatory system
The way to check the "speed" or "advancement" of aging processes in our body is the length of telomeres. What are telomeres? They can be compared to the ends of the laces-caps, but they are on the chromosomes - the form of our DNA. At every cell division at which the DNA (in the form of chromosomes) doubles, the telomeres are shortened. It is a natural process that occurs with every division, which means that the length of telomeres gradually decreases with age. But as our body is extremely intelligent, we have the enzyme telomerase, which rebuilds the length of telomeres. There are two ways to stop aging so that it runs in the most optimal and slowest way.
To contribute to this, we can influence the length of our telomeres by:
- limiting the mechanisms that shorten them
- enhancing the action of telomerase that rebuilds telomeres.
Of course, this is not the only factor in the occurrence of these diseases, sometimes indirect, sometimes direct. If you want to stay healthy in any of these items, read on.
Accelerated aging is, in addition to wrinkles, also worse immunity, faster appearance of degenerative diseases, diabetes, depression ...
How can we help our telomeres and slow down aging?
Of course, one of the main ways is a proper way of eating.
Elements that contribute to the preservation of telomeres in an optimal length are:
Include as much unprocessed products as possible in your diet: vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, whole grains.
* plantbased diet
In one study, Dr. Ornish, examining the impact of a plant diet on the course of prostate cancer, showed that in addition to much better survival of people in the group who was on the plant diet, telomeres were also extended. This does not mean that you must completely go on a vegan diet to take care of your telomeres. Any change towards a more plant-based diet will benefit you and your telomers.
* Omega 3
Long-chain omega 3 acids, specifically EPA and DHA, are an ingredient that we need to provide from the diet. Our body is unable to produce them in sufficient quantities. Unfortunately, this is part of the diet that in most people is deficient. Their higher content in the cells was correlated with a slower telomere shortening rate. Importantly, they have anti-inflammatory properties.
Another element of the diet that we need to supplement while living in Northern sphere. At least in the period from October to March at a dose of 2000 I.U.
Elements that affect telomere shortening:
added sugar, highly processed food contributes to weight gain, while in relation to telomeres it leads to their shortening.
Yes, beer is also alcohol. There is currently no evidence that moderate alcohol consumption is detrimental to the length of telomeres, but if you reach for alcohol more than 1-2 times a week it is already harmful to health overall.
* Processed meat
* Soft drinks
Processes that reoccur with many conditions and also contribute to telomere shortening include:
One of my favorite subjects. We have a huge impact on this with what we eat. These include as I mentioned omega 3 fatty acids, which we should supplement, but also the whole diet has a huge impact on whether it will be anti-inflammatory or pro-inflammatory.
Antioxidants can be found in vegetables and fruits, but our body also secretes several of them, including the strongest - melatonin, about which in a moment. And here it should be noted that antioxidants are better absorbed from food than from supplements, more is not always better and the basis is always a healthy, balanced diet.
Although, diet has a huge impact on most of the processes in our body, it is almost never the only factor. That is why I am in favor of a holistic approach that does not focus only on one aspect conditioning health. If you hear from someone that after doing "this one thing" that person will tell you all your health will get better, run as far as possible.
Not only the quantity but above all the quality of sleep is important here. I am not a specialist in this topic, but I want to share with you what I know. The daily cycle is important, meaning how much sleep you get, and the quality of it. During sleep, melatonin is secreted - the strongest antioxidant produced by the body. The oxidative state, like inflammation or the quality of the intestinal microbiota, affects most of the processes in our body. Just like the aging process, the oxidative state is not only the quality of our skin (most women know that free radicals have a negative effect on the appearance and health of the skin) but also the quality of the immune system, the blood system, changes in organs ...
One of the elements that affects the quality of sleep is blue light. This is a part of white light that occurs naturally, but is just one of several waves of sunlight. (white light is actually a combination of several types of light in different colors, it can be seen beautifully with a rainbow, when white light is dispersed and we are able to see its individual "elements") The light we are exposed to at home is mainly blue light. Computers, cells, tablets, TV, LED bulbs ..- all these devices emit mainly blue light, which is interpreted by our body as "it is the middle of the day, I have to be alert, therefore I will release hormones that stimulate me - including cortisol, adrenaline, and I will not release melatonin now, because it is not evening yet and I 'm not going to sleep yet. "In natural conditions, a lot of blue light reaches the earth during the day, which stimulates and keeps us awake, while in the evening red light predominates, which signals time of rest and preparation for sleep. Unfortunately, because we use all these devices after sunset, therefore we take away a mechanism that signals the transition to a state of rest and reduces secretion, among others melatonin, which has antioxidant properties.
What can we do about it:
- put away all blue light emitting devices 2 hours before bedtime
- enable night mode or the blue light filter on the phone
- Blue light blocking applications are available on the computer, e.g. f.lux
- dim the lights in the evening, light the candles - which emit mostly red light
- if you feel that excess blue light can be a bigger problem for you, invest in glasses that block blue light
Chronic stress shortens telomeres. The stress reaction causes inflammation in the body and leads to shortening of telomeres. Shortened telomeres increase inflammation, over and over again. In addition to the fact of being exposed to stress, our response to stress is equally important. If we approach stressful situations as a challenge, we have a chance for a lower level of cortisol secreted in a stressful situation and longer telomeres.
We don't always have influence on them at the moment. If you can't move to the sea area, you can buy a filter or fill your apartment with plants that, as we know, purify the air.
If you would like to read more about this topic, reach for Telomeres and health, Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, Dr. Elissa Epel, 2017 or read one of their publications.