- Healthy behaviors such as consistent exercise, effective stress management, and a balanced diet suggested to potentially reverse aging at the cellular level, according to a recent pilot study.
- Telomeres, the DNA sequences at the end of our chromosomes, play a critical role in cell aging. They are associated with risk of premature death and age-related diseases, with unhealthy behaviors and diseases shortening telomere length.
- Adopting a comprehensive healthy lifestyle encompassing eating a whole-food plant-based diet, regular moderate exercise, effective stress management, and social support could potentially slow cell aging and lengthen telomeres.
- The study showed a possible correlation between the number of positive lifestyle changes made and telomere length growth. However, the research is still in the early stages and requires further validation and testing.
Healthy behaviors like consistent exercise, balanced diet and effective stress management could reverse aging on a molecular level and restore a part of the cells’ vitality, suggests a newly commenced pilot study.
Conscious lifestyle choices may elongate the DNA sequences present at the end of individual chromosomes, explained the principal investigator of the study, Dr. Dean Ornish, founder, and president of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute located in Sausalito, California.
Benefits of a Healthy Lifestyle on Chromosomes
The better you live, the stronger your chromosomes become, the researchers presented in an online issue of the journal The Lancet Oncology. He stated that we might be able to reverse aging at the cellular level, our bodies are much dynamic than we have acknowledged, and the earlier we bring about changes, the more we can progress.
However, a geneticist advised that the research findings require further validation and there remain several queries unanswered.
Aging and Telomeres
The DNA sequences, known as telomeres, play a vital role in how cells age and have been linked with a high risk of premature death and age-related diseases. With the shortening of telomeres and weakening of their structural integrity, cell aging and death expedite.
Dr. Ornish pointed out that shorter telomere lengths have been associated with unhealthy behaviors such as habitual cigarette smoking, continuous emotional stress, and poor diet, as well as diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia, obesity, stroke, osteoporosis, infections, and diabetes.
“They’re often compared to the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces preventing your laces from fraying. In this instance, they prevent your chromosomes from falling apart,” Dr. Ornish described telomeres.
Healthy Lifestyle Can Influence Medical Condition
Past research indicated that adopting a healthy lifestyle could bring extensive medical benefits, including the reversal of heart disease progression. However, it is the first study of its kind to propose that healthy living advantages may pass down to a person’s cellular genetics.
Should this be validated further by large-scale randomized controlled trials, comprehensive lifestyle changes may significantly lower the risk of a variety of diseases and premature mortality. “Our genes — and our telomeres — are a predisposition, but they are not necessarily our fate,” remarked Dr. Ornish.
Research on Lifestyle and Telomeres
This five-year research targeted two minor groups of men diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer, untreated so far. Ten men were instructed to make comprehensive lifestyle changes, while a group of 25 others retained their usual living style.
These lifestyle changes emphasized four key areas:
Eating right: Adapting to a whole-food, plant-based diet low in fat and processed carbohydrates.
Moderate Exercise: Six days a week of thirty-minute walks.
Stress Management: Participating in meditation, yoga, and other relaxation techniques for an hour daily.
Social Support: Attending a support-group meeting for an hour weekly.
The length of the participants’ telomeres was measured through blood samples taken at the start of the research and then five years later.
The men who markedly altered their lifestyle experienced an average ten percent increase in their telomere length. On the other hand, the control group saw their telomeres reducing by an average of 3 percent.
Furthermore, there appeared to be a correlation between the number of positive lifestyle changes made and the body’s reaction – more healthy lifestyle alterations led to extended telomere growth.
“Our bodies harbor a remarkable capacity to heal if we simply halt our injurious practices,” Dr. Ornish continued. “The rate at which these mechanisms react and speed up recovery has left me astounded.”
Need for Further Verification
The results of this preliminary study seem promising, but require replicating in a large-scale, randomized trial – suggested Joseph Lee, a human geneticist, and associate professor of clinical epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York City.
Lee also expressed regret that the researchers did not monitor health aspects such as weight, BMI, or blood pressure alongside telomere length. He mentioned it would have been interesting if the participants in the intervention group with longer telomere lengths showed lower blood pressure.
The study, it should be noted, was not designed to test whether lifestyle changes could slow down the progression of prostate cancer.
For Additional Information
For more insights on telomeres, please click here.