The word telomeres is derived from two Greek words telos that means end and meros that means part.
Telomeres are a core component of human cells, and they affect how cells age over time. They are found at the end of each strand of DNA, and their main role is to protect chromosomes found in the DNA.
The existence of telomeres was first predicted by Alexey Oloynikov – a Soviet biologist in 1973. The biologists also suggested telomeres’ connection to cancer and the telomere hypothesis of aging. It was in 1984 that Carol Greider’s and Elizabeth Blackburn’s Nobel Prize winning discovery that the telomerase enzyme is responsible for regulating telomeres.
There are two mechanisms through which telomere activity is controlled. Those are through addition and erosion. The enzyme telomerase determines addition of the telomere… while erosion occurs during mitosis (cell division).
Many practitioners in the medical field acknowledge telomeres are responsible for the aging process. Telomere growth is also linked to the following diseases and conditions:
Role of Telomeres
The role of telomeres is similar to that of the plastic tips found at the end of a shoelace – to protect the shoelace from fraying. Without telomeres, DNA strands would be exposed and eventually would be damaged and wouldn’t be able to do their job. DNA contains vital information… and telomeres protect this information.
Over time, cells divide, and this causes the telomeres to shorten. They shorten up to a point where cell division can’t take place anymore. As cells divide, the core DNA remains intact. However, since cell division can’t take place anymore, the cells stop functioning and start aging. In essence, telomeres are responsible for the aging process. The aging process that is caused by telomeres is biological rather than chronological.
How are Telomeres measured?
Telomeres are measured based on the telomere length in the white blood cells of a patient (T-lymphocytes). It is referred to as the Patient Telomere Score. A high telomere score means the cells of the patient are ‘younger’. A desirable telomere score is one that is above the average line.
External factors that affect telomere growth
The aging process shortens telomeres naturally. However, there are other factors that can shorten your telomeres and lead to aging faster than expected. These include:
Obesity is caused by a high intake of food whose calories are retained in the body, since an individual doesn’t utilize the calories. Consumption of a diet high in fats and sugars contributes highly to obesity. According to Tim Spector of St. Thomas Hospital in London, obesity affects an individual’s telomeres. And a lean person has an extra 8.8 years of aging as compared to an obese person.
Research conducted by Spector also revealed that the link between high concentrations of leptin and telomere shortening was stronger than that of obesity. Leptin is a hormone that inhibits appetite. Obese people are resistant to this hormone and have it in higher levels.
According to Specter, smokers are 4.6 years older biologically as compared to nonsmokers. Heavy smokers who smoke more than 20 cigarettes a day for a span of 40 years are biologically older by 7.6 years.
However when an individual smokes and is obese, the results are worse. An obese smoker is on average 10 years older than a non-smoker. Free radicals are responsible for causing damage to the telomeres. Smoking and obesity are a source of free radicals, since it causes oxidative stress.
A study done by researchers at Tel Aviv University’s Department of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology showed that taking copious amounts of coffee results in shortening telomeres. The amount of coffee that resulted in shortening of telomeres was equal to the amount of caffeine found in a shot of espresso. In contrast, moderate consumption of alcohol lengthens telomeres. The researchers found that when telomeres were exposed to an alcohol solution of 5 and 7 percent, they increased in length.
Research at Tel Aviv University showed that emotional stress resulted in aging, since it generated free radicals in the cells. Shorter telomeres in leukocytes (antibody cells that help in fighting diseases) are directly linked to causing stress.
Taking Care of your Telomeres - What can you do?
To avoid obesity which directly leads to aging, eliminate these foods and additives from your diet:
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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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