Have you ever heard of telomeres? They have made their appearance in the news now and again and are back in the spotlight to be more intensely explored by science and more fully understood by the population at large, it seems. What are they and how do they work? Could understanding and affecting telomere length be the key to longevity and health?
Telomeres are strands of DNA stuck to the end of chromosomes. When you were born you had somewhere between 15,000 and 35,000 of these little clasp-like protecting pairs sitting at the ends of your genes. It seems that as most people age, the number of telomeres reduces until there are less 4,000 or so – which is apparently one suspected cause for death. It was previously thought that telomeres only get shorter, but recent studies prove these assumptions wrong, as we now know that telomeres can get longer as well.
What makes telomeres grow?
It seems that there is more to a healthy lifestyle and attention to food quality than ever expected. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, superfoods and antioxidants as well as engaging in regular exercise, a positive attitude and healing emotional trauma actually make telomeres grow longer. Antioxidants such as Resveratrol and selenium – especially selenium found in blue corn can be very beneficial to the growing of telomeres.
Dr. Lawrence Wilson at the Center for Development has commented on telomeres and what contributes to their lengthening, including information derived from the book The Immortality Edge by M. Fossel, G. Blackburn, and D. Woyarowski. In this exploration of telomeres it is found that exercise is beneficial, specifically lighter exercise in younger people and shorter spurts of more vigorous exercise in people age 40-50. Increasing yang energy in the body is also recommended verses increasing yin. Yin and yang are concepts of Chinese medicine and point to specific qualities in food and the way food is prepared, thought patterns,movement and exercise.
Yang energy could be increased through eating more fresh foods – especially those which grown beneath the earth or those lightly cooked like grains. Meat, eggs and sea salt are considered the most yang – though it is encouraged to eat in balance – so as not to get overly yin either. Drinking more water increases yang as does limiting processed and reaching for more whole foods. Certain practices such as fasting can increase yang energy, where over-eating increases yin. Getting enough rest also increases yang in the body which is thought to lengthen telomeres.
Scientist have found that deep-seated emotional traumas such as childhood abuse can shorten telomeres and so it is thought that healing emotional wounds and addressing psychological issues can have the opposite effect of lengthening them. Yoga and meditation, especially for around one hour per day, can lengthen telomeres and may be one of the greatest keys to longevity.
One thing is certain, a healthy, wholesome diet along with positive mental patterns, good sleep and exercise are now scientifically proven ways to lengthen ones life. The telomeres which hang onto the end of our chromosomes apparently measure the length of our lives and a well-balanced lifestyle helps to not only keep these precious telomeres in tact, but lengthen them – one of the greatest keys to understanding longevity science has perhaps ever discovered. So if you didn’t have an excuse before to eat right, exercise and meditate, now you do. Science is now proving what natropaths, yogis and metaphysics have been saying for decades or longer. A healthy lifestyle really does help you to live longer by lengthening telomeres. There is only one kink in the awareness that needs deeper understanding. Cancer cells seem to have longer telomeres too.
Though cancer cells grow longer telomeres, they are actually inhibited by a healthy lifestyle. This one understanding is preventing the sudden plunge into researching drugs which might help lengthen telomeres, as they could potentially stimulate cancer cell growth as well. The benefit to eating right and exercising is that the other benefits gained from a healthy lifestyle help to balance and cleanse the body so as to make it an unfit environment for cancer cells to live in, while at the same time lengthening the telomeres of all the healthy cells. Could telomeres be the key to longevity? For now, it seems closer to the whole truth about biological life extension than anything else.
Written by: Stasia Bliss