Invite Health Podcast, Episode hosted by Jerry Hickey. Ph
Our body is made out of cells and cells, like everything else, have a lifespan. How long a cell lives varies from location to location, but the cells should not disappear because if the cell disappears, a part of you is disappearing. You can imagine if you lose a lot of cells, a lot of you is disappearing and that’s not a good thing. To prevent this from happening, cells have to divide into two new cells, called daughter cells. When they do this, they have to share their chromosomes. A chromosome is like a big archive or library that contains your genes and the genes have the blueprint for everything that’s going on inside of you. If the cells don’t split into two new cells and don’t share their chromosomes properly, the cells disappear anyway.
Telomeres to protect chromosomes
To prevent damage to the chromosomes, there are protective N caps called telomeres. When the cells are splitting into new cells at the end of their life cycles, the telomeres shorten a little bit. If they get too short, you lose the cell anyway. However, the beauty of a telomere is that it can regrow to a more healthy length. Certain things can shorten the telomere length, like smoking, and certain things can improve the length of the telomere, including things like a healthy diet, exercise and a good multivitamin.
A famous researcher compared the telomere at the end of your chromosome to that little cap at the end of your shoelace, called an aglet, which prevents the shoelace from unraveling. If that aglet gets broken down, the shoelace unravels and you have to get new shoelaces. Well, you can’t get new cells, so you have to protect the cells you have.
Here’s an example of why telomeres and cell health are so important. Researchers from the University of Leicester and the University of Glasgow took blood samples from 484 men with moderately raised cholesterol and 1058 control subjects who had healthy cholesterol. They compared their telomere length and their white blood cells and then compared that again five years later. Five years later, both the patients and the controls with the shortest telomeres were twice as likely to develop serious heart disease. A reduction in telomere length triggers aging of the cell, called cell senescence, and cell death, called apoptosis, so it’s not a good thing.
Another study in the journal Physiological Genomics is another example of why telomere length is so crucial. It’s from the University of Melbourne, the School of Applied and Biomedical Sciences at the Federation University of Australia and the University of Leicester’s Department of Cardiovascular Sciences. This study says that worldwide, heart disease is public enemy number one. It’s the leading cause of death worldwide. This often results from death of heart cells. Oxidative stress and hypoxia lead to shortening of the telomeres in the heart cells, which leads to a drop in heart function. In contrast, antioxidants, caloric restriction and exercise can help prevent the shortening of the telomeres of heart cells and therefore help prevent the worsening of heart disease.
Listen to the full podcast episode to learn more about how shortening telomeres can impact your health.
Antioxidants and telomeres
Let’s look at some research on antioxidants and telomere length because longer telomeres protect your chromosomes and that’s connected with a longer, healthier life.
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A study done by the Georgia Health Sciences University and published in the International Journal of Obesity looked at overweight African Americans. They said that Vitamin D in overweight African Americans protects telomere activity. It improved their activity by 19.2% from the start of the study. Simply giving them 2000 units of Vitamin D3 every day improved their ability to lengthen their telomeres.
There are a lot of studies on Vitamin D. If you want to outlive your neighbor, take some Vitamin D. The best form of Vitamin D is Vitamin D3 because it seems to be more active than Vitamin D2. It’s better absorbed when you take it with food because it’s fatty-soluble.
Here’s selenium and telomere length. This study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition looked at middle age to older adults. Every 20mcg increase in the intake of selenium from your food was associated with a .42% longer telomere length in all the participants. If you’re getting a good amount of selenium a day, like 50mcg or 100mcg, you’d be increasing your telomere length 1 to 2%, which is beautiful.
Learn about additional nutrients that can help promote healthy telomere lengths by tuning into the full podcast episode.
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