Last week, we looked at telomeres and their connection with health and aging. When telomeres are shortened or damaged, cells can age and die more quickly. What, if anything, can we do about it? Contrary to popular belief, genetics are not written in stone. They can be influenced by several factors.
In a study involving two groups of men diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer, one group consumed a plant-based diet, exercised moderately, used stress management techniques, and purposely sought social support and greater intimacy. The other group served as a control group. Five years later, the men in the control group saw a telomere shortening by 3 percent. The group employing a healthy lifestyle showed a 10 percent increase in telomere length.
Nutrition and Exercise:
Antioxidant-rich foods give a wonderful start to our cellular health. Colorful fruits and vegetables, berries, cherries, plums, apples, artichokes, yams and pumpkin are loaded with antioxidants and vitamins. Leafy greens such as kale, collards, spinach and chard provide a bonanza of calcium, magnesium, potassium and many of the B vitamins. Nuts and seeds provide healthy fats, plant-based proteins, and minerals which benefit our immunity, bone development and energy production. Be mindful of portion size for nuts since they can be fairly calorie-dense. Salmon and trout are good sources of Omega-3’s. Adequate protein from red meat, chicken, duck, eggs, whey protein, cottage cheese and other dairy are also recommended.
Avoid refined sugars, trans fats, white bread and sodas. Overeating on a regular basis will also shorten telomeres. In terms of exercise, moderate to vigorous activity and a reduction in the amount of time spent sitting will help lengthen telomeres.
Supplements and spices:
One study showed a 5 percent lengthening of telomeres in 586 women who routinely took a multivitamin. A study of men receiving folic acid indicated that those with the highest level of folic acid had longer telomeres than those with the lowest level. Vitamins B6, B12, C, E (tocotrienols), and D3 were all found to have a positive effect. The following vitamins, minerals and supplements were beneficial: magnesium, zinc, carnosine (a brain antioxidant), quercetin, green tea, grape seed extract and resveratrol. Let’s not leave out our spices: turmeric/curcumin, cayenne, ginger and garlic. All of these help preserve those precious telomeres.
Many verses throughout God’s Word speak of His provision. “He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate — bringing forth food from the earth.” (Psalm 104:14) We can’t choose our genes, but we can make healthy lifestyle choices. As always, consult your physician or health care provider when making any changes that may affect any ongoing health issues or may possibly cause medication interactions.
It’s not always feasible to make lots of changes at once. With good health, it’s more about the journey. If you make only one change that improves your health, you have made progress.
Which of these recommendations could you incorporate to strengthen and lengthen your telomeres?