Which one of us wouldn’t like to turn back the clock and become young again? But is it even possible to reverse aging? Not exactly in the Benjamin Button way, but the science of anti-aging has made some major strides recently.
In 2009, Elizabeth Helen Blackburn, along with two others, received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her discovery of telomerase, an enzyme that replenishes telomere length (a direct sign of aging).
To understand what telomeres are, think of the aglet at the ends of shoelaces. Just as this piece of plastic stops the shoelace from unraveling, the telomere at the ends of a DNA strand protects the genetic code during replication.
Every time a cell divides and the DNA is replicated, some of the bases at the ends don’t get replicated. The telomeres at the ends sacrifice themselves to protect the vital information stored in the DNA. As we age, the telomeres shorten and once we run out of telomeres, the cells can’t replicate anymore; putting a hard limit at how long we can live.
This limit, known as the Hayflick limit is at 120 years, much longer than most of us live. The good news is that new research shows that reversing telomere shortening can slow down and even reverse aging.
1. Calorie Restriction is a simple way to preserve longer telomeres. Eating often and excessively leads to shortened telomeres. Eating a calorie restricted and time restricted diet activates the sirtuin1 gene (sirt1) which is responsible for maintaining the primary systems in the body during food scarcity. This gene helps in preserving telomere length which means you age slower and show fewer signs of aging.
2. Stress is a big reason for shortened telomeres. It’s literally true that stress makes you older. Remember Obama at the end of his second term?
A study done by Elizabeth Blackburn found that female caregivers who were under higher stress levels had shorter telomeres equivalent to almost a decade of aging! So don’t get stressed, but of course that’s easier said than done. So what could you do if you are facing a lot of stress and don’t want to add the stress of aging to the list?
Vigorous exercise has been shown to reverse the effects of stress on telomere length. High intensity exercise such as Peak 8 or HIIT are especially useful in reversing effects of stress.
3. Obesity means inflammation and inflammation leads to shorter telomeres. The long list of fatal diseases caused by obesity, are more like symptoms to the disease of you getting old much faster than your age.
DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, is great at fighting inflammation. Cold showers reduce inflammation as well. But the best way to fight inflammation and keep your telomeres long is to lead a healthy lifestyle with a good wholesome diet and enough exercise.
4. SAMe or S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine is a chemical that acts as a methyl donor, helping in a process called methylation which is very important for maintaining proper telomere health.
SAMe can be taken as a supplement but it is better to build it within the body using the building blocks such as methionine, MSM sulfur, choline, trimethylglycine, vitamin B12 and B6, folic acid etc. To ensure you’re getting enough of these building blocks for SAMe in your diet, make sure you’re eating sulfur rich protein such as whey protein, eggs, cottage cheese, dairy, red meat, legumes, duck, nuts and seeds along with a good multivitamin supplement.
SAMe ensures that the telomeres are healthy and so prevents their premature shortening.
5. Minerals and Vitamins such as vitamin C, D and E are essential to maintaining telomere length. Vitamin D fights inflammation as well. And vitamin E has actually been known to restore telomere length. One word of caution when talking about vitamins is that although supplements can be useful if the diet is restricted but most of the vitamins in the pills don’t get absorbed so it’s better to get them from natural sources.
Minerals such as magnesium and zinc are important for restricting telomere shortening. Magnesium is essential for certain enzymes that help in DNA replication and it has been found that a lack of magnesium can lead to rapid loss of telomere length. It will be good to note here that the American diet is deficient in magnesium so it might be a good idea to take it as a supplement.
Zinc helps in DNA repair and is essential for maintaining telomere length. You need a minimum of 15mg to a maximum of 50mg (for women) 75mg (for men) of Zinc in your diet per day.
These 5 simple tips can help you fight premature aging and maybe even reverse the signs of aging. This information isn’t quite the fountain of youth, yet, but we are getting pretty close.
Dr. Elisa Lottor is a nutritionist and homeopath with a special interest in Regenerative Medicine, and has been practicing in Southern California for 30 years. She is the author of Female and Forgetful and The Miracle of Regenerative.
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