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Telomeres: How to Help Prevent Them from Shortening

In my previous blog, I discussed the importance of telomeres to the ageing process and our bodies. Naturally, telomere length, and their impressive health benefits are now gathering more and more interest… the race is on! How do we preserve telomere length in normal cells, which in turn, sustain healthy cellular youth and functionality?

The Answer? Vitamin Supplementation

Over the last few years, scientists have gathered a tremendous and convincing amount of evidence, demonstrating that one way of supporting telomere health and length is to include a daily regime of certain vitamins in adequate amounts including, B vitamins (including vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and folic acid), vitamin D3, vitamin C, and vitamin E (in particular Gamma-tocotrienol which prevent, and may even reverse telomere shortening), and the vegetable carotenoids, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, high levels of which have been seen to promote significantly longer telomeres.

Fish oils have also demonstrated they can significantly impact telomere length. One study showed that by reducing blood levels of omega-6 fats, and increasing omega-3s (from fish oil), the outcome was increased telomere length. This was due to a reduction of inflammatory molecules (cytokines) and oxidative stress, which was brought on by higher levels of omega-3s in relation to the pro-inflammatory omega-6s. There is a specific ratio between omega-6s and omega-3s that has to adhered to, to help prevent excess inflammation and for us to remain healthy. It is important to have both these omegas present in the body, so long as they are in the correct ratios.

An Important Note for Women

Women who consume a diet lacking in antioxidants tend to have shorter telomeres and present a moderate risk of developing breast cancer. On the other hand, a diet rich in antioxidants such as vitamin E, vitamin C, and beta-carotene have been linked to longer telomeres and a lower risk of breast cancer.

I mentioned previously about hormone deficiencies and decline, and the influence they have on the shortening of telomeres. Hormones decline with age, but supplementing with bioidentical hormones can aid telomere length. Oestrogen – 17 beta oestradiol – and testosterone activate telomerase which plays a key role in telomere length. However, estrogen blockers such as those given to women who have been found to have cancer, turn off or inhibit telomerase, as do androgen (synthetic male hormone) blockers.

So to help maintain telomere length… remember to take your antioxidants and vitamins, and for an even better outcome… bioidentical hormones as well!

References

Zhu H, Guo D, Li K, et al. Increased telomerase activity and vitamin D supplementation in overweight African Americans. Int J Obes (Lond). 2012;36(6):805-9.

Chiappori AA, Kolevska T, Spigel DR, et al. A randomized phase II study of the telomerase inhibitor imetelstat as maintenance therapy for advanced non-small-cell lung cancer. Ann Oncol 2015;26(2)354-62.

Pusceddu I, Herrmann M, Kirsch SH, et al. One-carbon metabolites and telomere length in a prospective and randomized study of B- and/or D-vitamin supplementation. Eur J Nutr. 2016.

Xu Q, Parks CG, DeRoo LA, et al. Multivitamin use and telomere length in women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89(6):1857-63.

Shin C, Baik I. Leukocyte Telomere Length is Associated With Serum Vitamin B12 and Homocysteine Levels in Older Adults With the Presence of Systemic Inflammation. Clin Nutr Res. 2016;5(1):7-14.

Min KB, Min JY. Association between leukocyte telomere length and serum carotenoid in US adults. Eur J Nutr. 2016.

Jennings BJ, Ozanne SE, Dorling MW, Hales CN. Early growth determines longevity in male rats and may be related to telomere shortening in the kidney. FEBS Lett. 1999 Apr 1; 448(1):4-8.

Jennings BJ, Ozanne SE, Hales CN. Nutritional, oxidative damage, telomere shortening,  and cellular senescence: individual or connected agents of aging? Jennings BJ, Ozanne SE, Hales CN. Mol Genet Metab. 2000 Sep-Oct; 71(1-2):32-42.

Xiong S, Patrushev N, Forouzandeh F, et al. PGC-1alpha Modulates Telomere Function and DNA Damage in Protecting against Aging-Related Chronic Diseases. Cell Rep. 2015;12(9):1391-9.

Pusceddu I, Farrell CJ, Di Pierro AM, et al. The role of telomeres and vitamin D in cellular aging and age-related diseases. Clin Chem Lab Med. 2015;53(11):1661-78.

Zhang D, Sun X, Liu J, et al. Homocysteine accelerates senescence of endothelial cells via DNA hypomethylation of human telomerase reverse transcriptase. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2015;35(1):71-8.

Harley CB, Liu W, Flom PL, et al. A natural product telomerase activator as part of a health maintenance program: metabolic and cardiovascular response. Rejuvenation Res. 2013;16(5):386-95.

Borras M, Panizo S, Sarro F, et al. Assessment of the potential role of active vitamin D treatment in telomere length: a case-control study in hemodialysis patients. Clin Ther. 2012;34(4):849-56.

Makpol S, Zainuddin A, Rahim NA, et al. Alpha-tocopherol modulates hydrogen peroxide-induced DNA damage and telomere shortening of human skin fibroblasts derived from differently aged individuals. Planta Med. 2010;76(9):869-75.

Tanaka Y, Moritoh Y, Miwa N. Age-dependent telomere-shortening is repressed by phosphorylated alpha-tocopherol together with cellular longevity and intracellular oxidative-stress reduction in human brain microvascular endotheliocytes. J Cell Biochem. 2007;102(3):689-703.

Makpol S, Abidin AZ, Sairin K, et al. gamma-Tocotrienol prevents oxidative stress-induced telomere shortening in human fibroblasts derived from different aged individuals. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2010;3(1):35-43.

Sen A, Marsche G, Freudenberger P, et al. Association between higher plasma lutein, zeaxanthin, and vitamin C concentrations and longer telomere length: results of the Austrian Stroke Prevention Study. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2014;62(2):222-9.

Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Epel ES, Belury MA, et al. Omega-3 fatty acids, oxidative stress, and leukocyte telomere length: A randomized controlled trial. Brain Behav Immun. 2013;28:16-24.

Gonzalez-Suarez I, Redwood AB, Grotsky DA, et al. A new pathway that regulates 53BP1 stability implicates cathepsin L and vitamin D in DNA repair. Embo j. 2011;30(16):3383-96.

Liu JJ, Prescott J, Giovannucci E, et al. Plasma vitamin D biomarkers and leukocyte telomere length. Am J Epidemiol. 2013;177(12):1411-7.

Kim YY, Ku SY, Huh Y, et al. Anti-aging effects of vitamin C on human pluripotent stem cell derived cardiomyocytes. Age (Dordr). 2013;35(5):1545-57.

Li Y, Zhang W, Chang L, et al. Vitamin C alleviates aging defects in a stem cell model for Werner syndrome. Protein Cell. 2016;7(7):478-88.

Farzaneh-Far R, Lin Jue, Espel ES, Harris WS, Blackburn EH, et al. Association of Marine Omega-3 Fatty Acid Levels With Telomeric Aging in Patients With Coronary Heart Disease. Jama 2010 Jan 20;303(3):250.

Masood A. Shammas. Telomeres, Lifestyle, Cancer and Aging. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2011 Jan; 14(1): 28–34.

Jing Shen, Gammon MD, Terry MB, Qiao Wang, et al. Telomere length, oxidative damage, antioxidants and Breast cancer risk. Int J Cancer. 2009 Apr 1;124(7):1637-43.

Calado RT, Yewdell WT, WilersonKL, Regal JA, et al. Sex hormones, acting on the TERT gene, increase telomerase activity in human primary hematopoietic cells. Blood 2009 Sep 10;114(11):2236-2243.

Telomeres: Is Your Body’s Fuse Burning Out?

Could Your Body’s Fuse Be Burning Out?

Telomeres is a “hot subject” these days as they are considered to be an important factor in the ageing process, and although ageing is multifaceted, a host of research demonstrates that telomere length is as an excellent biomarker for ageing at the cellular level. The shortening of telomeres, over time, accelerates cellular ageing, however there are various nutrients that assist telomere repair and help maintain telomere length, that have proven health benefits.

What Exactly Are Telomeres?

They are often compared to the burning fuse; like this fuse, telomeres at the end of our chromosomes, steadily but surely shorten every time a cell replicates itself. Telomeres are a ‘time-bomb’ that hold the key to biological ageing; they are small strands of DNA code in our genes which control ageing and cell replication. In short, they help dictate how fast or slowly we age. Once they have reached a ‘critical point’ of shortness, cellular replication can no longer take place, which leads to ageing (senescence) of the cell and finally death, sometimes known as the “Hayflick limit process”. Ageing cells are not needed in the body and no longer contribute to efficacious tissue upkeep. And, in fact, telomere length is a very useful biomarker of cellular ageing.

Cells contain an enzyme (enzymes are special chemicals which speed up the body’s processes. Enzyme function declines with age) known as telomerase, which has the function of adding fresh new DNA to the ends of telomeres, assisting in keeping them long enough to support and maintain cellular health and activity.

What Circumstances Activate, Determine and Accelerate Telomere Shortening?

At every turn, we are faced with an internal (within our body) battle against negative forces. The eternal, endless and internal battle, wages war on our molecules, our cells, our entire body, as those forces actively work to destroy them. Our enemies in this war include: oxidation, glycation (a process that is damaging and toxic to the body), abnormal methylation (can lead to an increased risk of certain cancers, heart disease, stroke, neurodegenerative diseases, and other chronic issues.), inflammation, and DNA gene mutation. At the same time, we also have to face external influences; environmental toxins, unhealthy diet, overeating (a restricted diet has been associated with significantly longer telomeres and longevity), lack of exercise, smoking, nature of work/profession, stress, hormone and vitamin deficiencies. All of these trigger the shortening of telomere length.

At every level, life and longevity is a balance of factors. Just as love is a balance of growing, learning and understanding each other; a balance between freedom and trust: ageing is a balance between entropy and defense; degradation and restoration. We must learn to come together and understand it, and learn how we can protect our telomeres and therefore, our lives and our longevity.

Why are Telomeres More Important as we Age?

Our body is so intricately designed that the human infrastructure instinctively defends us from an attack. From the top and at every level, the body has specific systems in place to protect, minimise, restore and repair damage. But as we age, from approximately 30 years, the human infrastructure and its systems begin to break down. As the years and decades pass, the breakdown picks up speed, shifting gears from first, to second, and finally sixth gear.

Our body is no longer able to repair itself as it once did. Cells can’t recycle as well as they once did, and as a result, the damage in our body increases. We now get a shift towards more damage and decay (known as catabolic) from restore and repair (known as anabolic). Age-related defects in metabolism equate to increased pathology (disease). When the body slows, the restore and repair systems in place decline and, at the same time, the pace of telomere shortening increases. The erosion of telomeres plays a role in ALL diseases. Shortened telomeres are found in individuals with age-related disorders including neurodegeneration, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.

In my next blog on Telomeres, I will explain how you can help to maintain their length with vitamin supplementation.

References

Zhu H, Guo D, Li K, et al. Increased telomerase activity and vitamin D supplementation in overweight African Americans. Int J Obes (Lond). 2012;36(6):805-9.

Chiappori AA, Kolevska T, Spigel DR, et al. A randomized phase II study of the telomerase inhibitor imetelstat as maintenance therapy for advanced non-small-cell lung cancer. Ann Oncol 2015;26(2)354-62.

Pusceddu I, Herrmann M, Kirsch SH, et al. One-carbon metabolites and telomere length in a prospective and randomized study of B- and/or D-vitamin supplementation. Eur J Nutr. 2016.

Xu Q, Parks CG, DeRoo LA, et al. Multivitamin use and telomere length in women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89(6):1857-63.

Shin C, Baik I. Leukocyte Telomere Length is Associated With Serum Vitamin B12 and Homocysteine Levels in Older Adults With the Presence of Systemic Inflammation. Clin Nutr Res. 2016;5(1):7-14.

Min KB, Min JY. Association between leukocyte telomere length and serum carotenoid in US adults. Eur J Nutr. 2016.

Jennings BJ, Ozanne SE, Dorling MW, Hales CN. Early growth determines longevity in male rats and may be related to telomere shortening in the kidney. FEBS Lett. 1999 Apr 1; 448(1):4-8.

Jennings BJ, Ozanne SE, Hales CN. Nutritional, oxidative damage, telomere shortening,  and cellular senescence: individual or connected agents of aging? Jennings BJ, Ozanne SE, Hales CN. Mol Genet Metab. 2000 Sep-Oct; 71(1-2):32-42.

Xiong S, Patrushev N, Forouzandeh F, et al. PGC-1alpha Modulates Telomere Function and DNA Damage in Protecting against Aging-Related Chronic Diseases. Cell Rep. 2015;12(9):1391-9.

Pusceddu I, Farrell CJ, Di Pierro AM, et al. The role of telomeres and vitamin D in cellular aging and age-related diseases. Clin Chem Lab Med. 2015;53(11):1661-78.

Zhang D, Sun X, Liu J, et al. Homocysteine accelerates senescence of endothelial cells via DNA hypomethylation of human telomerase reverse transcriptase. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2015;35(1):71-8.

Harley CB, Liu W, Flom PL, et al. A natural product telomerase activator as part of a health maintenance program: metabolic and cardiovascular response. Rejuvenation Res. 2013;16(5):386-95.

Borras M, Panizo S, Sarro F, et al. Assessment of the potential role of active vitamin D treatment in telomere length: a case-control study in hemodialysis patients. Clin Ther. 2012;34(4):849-56.

Makpol S, Zainuddin A, Rahim NA, et al. Alpha-tocopherol modulates hydrogen peroxide-induced DNA damage and telomere shortening of human skin fibroblasts derived from differently aged individuals. Planta Med. 2010;76(9):869-75.

Tanaka Y, Moritoh Y, Miwa N. Age-dependent telomere-shortening is repressed by phosphorylated alpha-tocopherol together with cellular longevity and intracellular oxidative-stress reduction in human brain microvascular endotheliocytes. J Cell Biochem. 2007;102(3):689-703.

Makpol S, Abidin AZ, Sairin K, et al. gamma-Tocotrienol prevents oxidative stress-induced telomere shortening in human fibroblasts derived from different aged individuals. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2010;3(1):35-43.

Sen A, Marsche G, Freudenberger P, et al. Association between higher plasma lutein, zeaxanthin, and vitamin C concentrations and longer telomere length: results of the Austrian Stroke Prevention Study. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2014;62(2):222-9.

Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Epel ES, Belury MA, et al. Omega-3 fatty acids, oxidative stress, and leukocyte telomere length: A randomized controlled trial. Brain Behav Immun. 2013;28:16-24.

Gonzalez-Suarez I, Redwood AB, Grotsky DA, et al. A new pathway that regulates 53BP1 stability implicates cathepsin L and vitamin D in DNA repair. Embo j. 2011;30(16):3383-96.

Liu JJ, Prescott J, Giovannucci E, et al. Plasma vitamin D biomarkers and leukocyte telomere length. Am J Epidemiol. 2013;177(12):1411-7.

Kim YY, Ku SY, Huh Y, et al. Anti-aging effects of vitamin C on human pluripotent stem cell derived cardiomyocytes. Age (Dordr). 2013;35(5):1545-57.

Li Y, Zhang W, Chang L, et al. Vitamin C alleviates aging defects in a stem cell model for Werner syndrome. Protein Cell. 2016;7(7):478-88.

Farzaneh-Far R, Lin Jue, Espel ES, Harris WS, Blackburn EH, et al. Association of Marine Omega-3 Fatty Acid Levels With Telomeric Aging in Patients With Coronary Heart Disease. Jama 2010 Jan 20;303(3):250.

Masood A. Shammas. Telomeres, Lifestyle, Cancer and Aging. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2011 Jan; 14(1): 28–34.

Jing Shen, Gammon MD, Terry MB, Qiao Wang, et al. Telomere length, oxidative damage, antioxidants and Breast cancer risk. Int J Cancer. 2009 Apr 1;124(7):1637-43.

Calado RT, Yewdell WT, WilersonKL, Regal JA, et al. Sex hormones, acting on the TERT gene, increase telomerase activity in human primary hematopoietic cells. Blood 2009 Sep 10;114(11):2236-2243.