A few posts ago I noted that I think telomere science is one of the most exciting areas in health and medicine–it has largely replaced the free radical/oxidative stress theory of aging, rather it has encompassed it, as oxidative stress seems to age us BY shortening our telomeres. As does inflammation, psychosocial stress, poor diet (back to inflammation), and sedentary lifestyle. So I thought it of interest that a recent study published in the journal Brain, Behaviour, and Immunity a few weeks ago (you can read the abstract here) found that supplementing a group of healthy sedentary overweight middle aged and older adults with 2 different doses of fish oil fatty acids (1/3 were given a look alike fatty acid supplement which mirrors the fatty acid composition of the American diet, which is to say it was mostly omega-6 fats), not only reduced indicators of inflammation and reduced the ratio of omega-6 to omega 3 fats measured in the blood, but they also found that as the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio went down, the length of the participants telomeres went UP (that’s a GOOD thing). It seems that the most potent natural products for actually increasing telomere length are some specific compounds present in small quantities in astragalus root, but its nice to know that good old fish oil (and likely lots of the things that are otherwise good for us) slow the rate of telomere shortening–which is another way of saying ‘slow the rate of aging’. Its also looking like if we actually can make the telomeres in our stem cells longer, that we get biologically YOUNGER…..
Hi folks–haven’t posted since late 2009, its been a busy couple of years. I’ve been involved in a lot of projects, speaking, writing, and consulting for other physicians about their patients. I’ve been involved in some new areas of study, one of which is telomere science (subject of the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2009), and which I think is potentially one of the most significant biological discoveries, with very immediate applications for human health, and especially for healthy aging–something of great personal interest to me as I find myself in my mid 60s.
The length of our telomeres–the little caps that protect the end of our chromosomes, is what allows our stem cells to continue to populate the 50-100 trillion cells that make up each of our bodies. How we live, in terms of our nutrition, our environment, our physical activity levels, how much stress we’re under, and how we manage it, and to a minor extent, our genetic heritage, all influence how rapidly our telomere’s shorten. Ground breaking research by Maria Blasco in Spain, and many others, have indicated that the % of our cells with critically short telomeres is an excellent indicator of our risk for cancer and other degenerative diseases, as well as our likely health span and lifespan. I’ll have a lot more to say about this emerging field over the next few months and years. Its good to be back!