We understand how important it is to maintain and protect the length of telomeres to slow the body’s aging process.
Let us take this a little back.
The world is not getting any younger, and many developed countries face a historical reality: their demographic structure is getting older. This has a two-fold meaning; that younger generations are not procreating as much as older generations. The other aspect is that age-related diseases have become a primordial public health concern. Every ailment that correlates with our biological health – not to be confused with chronological health – is vital for society’s overall well-being.
As our bodies get old, our organs enter a functional decline. This diminished body capacity correlates with most chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s, type 3 diabetes, cancer, and immunological syndromes. Senescence is becoming the number one risk factor for death in developed countries.
Telomeres are the crucial element that paces senescence and prevents cell death. Scientists know so far that telomere health is linked to genetic influences and the individual’s lifestyle choices.
This blog will briefly discuss how nutrition affects telomeres and what types of food are recommended to increase their lifespan.
Telomeres changed from being viewed simply as a capsule protecting the end of chromosomes to a complex structure with a primordial role in protecting the human genome. Not all human cells have telomerase, the enzyme responsible for telomere synthesis and hence adding nucleotides to the end of the chromosomes. The chromosomes lack end protection when the telomeres shorten, and the DNA gets damaged.
Studies show that smoking, obesity, and oxidative lesions are some of the triggers for telomere damage, independently of cell division -which is a natural process.
Telomeres and Nutrition
The goal is to increase telomere length, which is positively correlated with consuming certain foods such as legumes, fruits, nuts, and green tea. Furthermore, telomeres tend to shrink when individuals consume alcohol, processed meat, and sugary foods and drinks. Some of these studies show that the correlation between nutrition and telomere maintenance can happen independently of other factors such as age, sex, or body mass index. What does this mean? Even when a person has an average – or desirable – body mass index, if he or she consumes large quantities of processed meats, red meats, and sugary products, telomeres in his or her body will shorten.
Unhealthy diet choices trigger an overall inflammation process in our bodies, contributing to telomere attrition. Health professionals and researchers claim that the Mediterranean diet can increase telomere length because of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant potential.
Telomeres and Food groups
“The introduction of certain micronutrients in the diet could have a protective effect on telomere shortening.”
- Vitamins and minerals. Vitamins C, D, E, and beta-carotene and the minerals magnesium and zinc have positive effects in reversing oxidative processes in human cells.
- Vitamin B, C, and E preserve telomere length. (dark green vegetables such as spinach, kale, eggs, whole grains and cereals, beans, nuts seeds, fish, and fruits.)
- Vitamin D promotes telomerase activity. Vitamin D repairs enzymes.
- Carotenoids are associated with longer telomeres. (cod liver oil, orange juice, tuna fish, salmon, milk)
- Green and black tea have theaflavin and polyphenols, which are excellent at reducing inflammatory processes, and consequently have a positive effect on telomere length. “Elderly Chinese who are habitual tea drinkers have longer telomeres that correspond to an average increase of 5 years in life span compared to their counterparts who do not drink tea as frequently.”
- Omega-3 fatty acids are great detractors of oxidative processes. (seeds, nuts, plant oils, fish.)
- The Mediterranean diet is known for lowering inflammation and oxidative stress markers. The principal aspects of this diet involve high consumption of legumes, unrefined whole cereals, vegetables, and olive oil. Then, moderate consumption of dairy products, wine, and fish. And low consumption of all non-fish meat products.
- Vegetarian diets. Although vegetarian diets are known for high consumption of antioxidant and lower-fat foods, followers of these diets should mind the potential deficiencies in vitamins B, D, iron, and calcium because these deficiencies can lead to higher levels of cell oxidation processes.
Nutrition, among other lifestyle factors, is a critical element of telomere maintenance and reducing aging processes in the human body.