Aging is a multifaceted process that begins in our cells and leads to the steady decline of the body’s bigger systems. Oxidative stress, mitochondrial malfunction, cell senescence, and telomere shortening are among the explanations proposed by scientists as to why humans age. Telomeres, the structures at the ends of chromosomes, protect DNA from damage and allow chromosomes to properly repeat during cell division. According to research, telomere length decreases with age, and the rate at which they shorten may be symptomatic of how quickly someone matures. Fortunately, the rate at which telomeres shorten can be influenced by dietary and lifestyle factors—lower the rate of telomere shortening, and you may be able to slow the aging process.
Let’s look at five scientifically proven ways to keep your telomeres longer and healthier.
Focus on plant-rich diet:
Longer telomeres, a lower risk of chronic diseases, and a longer lifespan are all associated with people who eat a healthy diet. The researchers discovered that following a Mediterranean diet, or a plant-rich diet, was connected to longer telomeres (note that no studies on vegan or vegetarian diets and TL have been done). Unrefined grains, nuts and seeds, and coffee link to the longer telomere. A diet high in carotenoids, a substance found in leafy greens and red-orange colored fruits and vegetables, is also linked to longer telomeres.
Diets rich in nutrient-dense, high fiber foods and beneficial antioxidant-rich fats like omega-3 fatty acids are found in Mediterranean and plant-based diets. These diets contain ingredients that help minimize inflammation and oxidative stress in the body, two mechanisms that might speed up telomere shortening. Individual investigations have confirmed the link between TL and nutrients found in a plant-rich diet. In one major cross-sectional study, those who ate more fiber had longer telomeres, whereas a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids was linked to a slower rate of telomere shortening in another. Women who ate a diet high in antioxidants, particularly vitamin E and C, and beta-carotene, had longer telomeres and a decreased risk of breast cancer. Low intake of these nutrients was similarly connected to shortened telomeres and a modest risk of breast cancer.
Engaging in physical activity:
Physical activity and exercise both aid in telomere length preservation. People who exercise more have longer telomeres than those who are more sedentary. Physical activity, like a nutrient-dense diet, helps to minimize oxidative stress and inflammation in the body, which protects telomeres. In addition, the activity of telomerase, an enzyme that helps maintain telomere length, may rise in more active persons. When Werner et al. looked at telomere activity in athletes; they discovered that athletes had higher telomerase activity and less telomere shortening than non-athletes.
Choose folate, not folic acid:
Folate, a vital B vitamin contained in food, may aid in telomere protection and lengthening. According to research, people who get enough folate have longer telomeres, but those who don’t get enough folate have DNA damage and shorter telomeres. However, too much folate isn’t always a healthy thing. In a 2009 study, researchers discovered that people with the greatest folate levels had shorter telomeres. Folate, in its synthetic form, folic acid, is frequently added to our food supply (bread, cereals, and pasta) and multivitamins. Folic acid has a different effect on the body than natural folate since its bioavailability is much higher (85 percent compared to 50 percent). Focus on natural sources of folate, such as spinach, asparagus, artichoke, broccoli, and most legumes, to guarantee adequate folate levels.
A supplement with Vitamin D to improve already short telomeres:
Vitamin D and telomere length also have a substantial association. Higher vitamin D levels were linked to greater telomere length. Vitamin D serves various functions in the body, including reducing inflammation—a mechanism that may also protect telomeres. Furthermore, supplementing with vitamin D may aid in the lengthening of telomeres that have already been shortened. The telomerase gene, which extends telomeres by adding nucleotides to strands of telomere DNA, is spontaneously expressed by some cells in the body. Telomeres, in other words, can be extended by telomerase. Premere promotes telomerase gene expression, while telomerase promotes overall telomere health.
Keep stress at bay:
Stress raises cortisol levels and increases oxidative stress, both of which contribute to telomere shortening. Two groups of women had their telomere length and perceived stress levels assessed in one unique study. Mothers of healthy children made up the control group, whereas mothers of chronically ill children (“caregivers”) made up the experimental group. When compared to the women in the control group, caregivers had considerably lower telomerase activity and shorter telomeres. The difference in telomere length between the two groups was “equal to 10 years of life,” implying that the women who were under more stress were at a higher risk of age-related health problems.