Telomeres

Written by Jeffrey Eisenberg, MD, Author of Suckered

A telomere is a sequence of DNA at the end of our chromosomes. These end caps are protective as they preserve genetic information. However, telomeres shorten with each cell division. They burn down like a candlewick, leaving the chromosomes vulnerable to damage. Eventually the telomere length “runs out” and the cell can no longer rejuvenate. The result is cellular death.

It is hypothesized that humans can live to be 122 years old based on the study of telomere length. So why do the overwhelming majority of us fall so short of these expectations? Well, it turns out that inflammation, stress, and sugar accelerate the rate at which telomeres shorten. This speeds up the rate of biological aging, and is linked to heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative disease.

The American Journal of Public Health (10/16/14) was the first study to show that soda consumption is associated with telomere shortening and cellular aging. It is based on the work of Elizabeth Blackburn, a USCF researcher who received the Nobel Prize in 2009, who calculated that the daily consumption of a 20oz sweetened sugary beverage (SSB) was associated with 4.6 years of accelerated biological aging. (Comparable to the effect of smoking)

So telomere length is epigenetically influenced by nutrition. If we can eat more healthily, (avoiding excess sugar and processed carbohydrates while maximizing our exposure to antioxidants and anti-inflammatories) we may be able to slow down the rate of telomere shortening, repair damaged telomeres, and even lengthen these same telomeres. Be like a Vulcan: “Live long and prosper!”