I have always been interested in anti-aging medicine because of its inherent philosophy that a healthy lifestyle can lead to successful aging. The research regarding aging and the control we have over this process has simply skyrocketed in the last two decades.
The latest research conducted by Dr. Dean Ornish and published in the journal Lancet Oncology has indicated that the effects of aging on our cells can be somewhat controlled by three healthy lifestyle changes: improvements in nutrition, regular exercise, and meditation. Our cells age because the telomeres which are located on the ends of our chromosomes become shortened from cellular divisions and free radical damage. Telomere shortening is a biomarker for the aging of our cells and is associated with age-related chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease and dementia. But can our diet and lifestyle changes impact this aging process, and help control aging?
“We know from earlier studies that eating an unhealthy diet, smoking cigarettes, being under chronic emotional stress, loneliness and depression may shorten telomeres. But this is the first one we can actually increase the length of them,” said Dr. Ornish.
In this study, Dr. Ornish placed 35 men who had a low-risk form of prostate cancer into two groups. The first group of 10 men were given lifestyle changes including the consumption of a vegan, whole-foods diet, regular exercise program, provision of a social support network, and a stress-management strategy. The other group of 25 men were not given any lifestyle changes and were not required to make any. At the beginning of the study, the subjects all had their telomeres measured. The groups were followed for five years.
The results of this study indicated that after the five-year period, the participants in the first group had telomere lengths which actually increased by 10%. In the second group, these subjects had telomere lengths which decreased by three percent compared to five years earlier. In addition, the subjects who made the highest degree of changes to their lifestyles experienced the greatest degree of telomere growth.
Although telomere research is rather new, it is becoming a cutting-edge way to figure out how and why we age and to what extent we can really control this process. Dr. Ornish also importantly pointed out that “our genes are predisposition, but not our fate.”
“To the extent we’re willing to make changes to diet and lifestyle, we can change things that were once thought to be impossible,” he said.
I could not agree more with Dr. Ornish as the genes in your chromosomes do not necessarily predict certainty, but only tendency. There is no longer any doubt that your genes are sensitive to lifestyle intervention strategies and that the proper lifestyle techniques can influence cellular aging. The study also indicates that it is never too late to begin a healthy lifestyle and that the human body is capable of some very amazing things!
Source(s) for Today’s Article:
Chan, A., “How Changes To Your Diet and Exercise Regime Could Transform Your Cells — And Your Life,” Medscape web site, September 17, 2013; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/16/healthy-lifestyle-telomeres-lengthen_n_3916235.html.
Ornish, et al., “Effect of comprehensive lifestyle changes on telomerase activity and telomere length in men with biopsy-proven low-risk prostate cancer: 5-year follow-up of a descriptive pilot study,” The Lancet Oncology, Early Online Publication, September 17, 2013.