Researchers from the University of California in San Francisco have discovered that certain lifestyle changes may increase the length of telomeres.
Telomeres are DNA -protein complexes found at the end of chromosomes that control the aging process. They protect the end of the chromosomes from becoming damaged. If the telomeres are shortened or damaged, the cells age and die quicker, triggering the aging process.
Biological age can be predicted by the length of our telomeres, the researchers say. Shorter telomeres are linked to higher risk of premature death and age related diseases, including many cancers (breast, prostate, colorectal and lung) heart disease, vascular dementia and obesity.
For the study, the researchers analyzed two groups of men who had been diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer. Both groups had no conventional treatments, such as surgery or radiation, for the cancer.
The first group was required to make comprehensive lifestyle changes. These included:
• Adopting a whole foods plant based diet
• Carrying out moderate exercise
• Adopting stress management techniques, such as meditation and yoga
• Adopting greater intimacy and social support.
The second group was not asked to make any lifestyle changes.
The researchers measured the length of the men’s telomeres at the beginning of the study and again at the end five years later.
After five years, relative telomere length had increased in the lifestyle intervention group and decreased in the control group; the difference between the two groups was significant.
They also found a correlation between the degree of adherence to the lifestyle changes and the extent of change in relative telomere length. The researchers say that positive lifestyle changes may delay the progression of the cancer in its early stages.
These comprehensive lifestyle changes may significantly reduce the risk of a wide variety of diseases and premature mortality. Our genes, and our telomeres, are a predisposition, but they are not necessarily our fate.