Everybody wants to look a bit younger and a bit fresher. Like they did in their 20s when they didn’t even notice their tight plump skin and high cheekbones. (Youth is entirely wasted on the young!) With the myriad of anti-ageing treatments available promising the world, no price is too high and no treatment is too bizarre in the quest to tighten and rejuvenate. Despite the promises of instant rejuvenation and baby soft skin, we all face the inevitable slide into middle age and beyond. But what if we could change our bodies at a cellular level. What if our cells could become immortal and stop ageing in its tracks. Do we actually want to retain our youth forever?
As long as time itself, people have been seeking the elixir of life. The fountain of youth that could keep us looking and feeling young.
It is quite possible that scientists may have stumbled across a discovery that could cause cells to turn back the clock on ageing and its all down to a group of tiny proteins called telomeres.
Telomeres (greek: telo=end, meros = plate) are tiny protein caps which sit on the ends of chromosomes and protect them from damage and from sticking to neighbouring chromosomes. ( for the science geeks they are nucleotide repeat sequences TTAGGG repeated hundreds of thousands of times)
Each time a human cell divides, a gap is left at the end plate resulting in telomeres shortening with every cell division.
After years, telomeres become too short for further cell division and the cell undergoes programmed cell destruction, or it switches itself off. (If the cell doesn’t decommission and continues to replicate, it risks relaying aberrant information and even forming cancer cells.). If the function of these cells is not taken over by others, then function slows and the body begins to show physical signs of ageing.
Telomeres are also sensitive to oxidative stress and free radicals which can cause premature shortening and therefore premature ageing.
All is not lost though. An enzyme called Telomerase lengthens Telomeres by gluing proteins on to the end of the telomere every time the cell divides. This prevents the telomeres from wearing out too quickly, and, if they had a sufficient supply of telomerase, cells could keep dividing indefinitely; that is to say, they could become immortal. Whilst this sounds like a far fetched theory, it is scientifically accepted that if we could increase the production of telomerase, telomeres would remain long and ageing would be delayed. Most human cells have a scanty supply of telomerase.
Increasing telomerase activity could slow down the ageing process
But what’s the catch?
Good question. Because so far it sounds like if scientists could manufacture telomerase in daily pill form, we could all look like 25 year olds indefinitely!
Not quite.. The body is excellent at knowing which cells are faulty, worn out, or are beginning to code spurious information. It programmes those cells to self destruct or switch off. If we provided an endless supply of telomerase to all of the cells in the body, it would be akin to providing Miracle Grow to the weeds and plants in your garden, then being overwhelmed by Japanese knotweed, and risking losing your beautiful flowers. Cancer cells are known to have high telomerase activity, so by providing an external source of telomerase, faulty cells which should have been destroyed could progress to cancer. Therefore we may take away one of the body’s safety nets against cancer cells.
To safely increase telomere length, we need to harness the power of telomerase and allow the body to continue to weed out rogue cells as needed. The best way to do this is to encourage the body to build more telomerase of its own and to and send it to appropriate and healthy cells.
Digging out the weeds, then putting miracle grown on the flowers, and using plenty of it!
How can we lengthen our telomeres naturally? Are there any lifestyle changes we can make?
We haven’t yet found the silver bullet, but scientists are working on it. In the meantime there are some medically proven ways you can increase your telomere length and help yourself to look 10 years younger. Don’t you just love it when healthy advice can be robustly backed up by science? It will be no surprise to hear that common sense, healthy living advice is actually good for you!
1. Reduce oxidative stress
This means reduce the effect of free radicals on your telomeres by providing a steady flow of anti-oxidants. How do we supply anti oxidants? Vitamins of course! Specifically vitamin C and E. Berries, lemons and pineapples are particularly high in vitamin C, but most fruit and veg will give you a healthy boost. Blueberries are known as a superfood but all berries pack a vitamin rich punch. Vitamin E rich foods include spinach, trout and olive oil. Interestingly, studies have shown that those who take regular multivitamins have telomeres 5% longer than non users so it may be a good idea to include an A-Z vitamin tablet if your diet is not nutritionally complete
Studies have shown that those who exercise have longer telomeres. This effect is particularly noted in middle aged participants. One study showed that middle aged long distance runners had 75% longer telomeres than their non exercising counterparts. This doesn't conclude that long distance running is better - indeed over exercising may reduce the beneficial effects by increasing oxidative stress; but it does clearly show that commencing and sticking to an exercise programme causes a significant improvement in telomere length. It also shows that if you are in your 40s, 50s, 60s or beyond, its not too late to take up exercise. in fact it might be the perfect time because your body will reap the most rewards. Just remember to start gently and speak to your doctor before starting if you have medical conditions.
3. Reduce stress:
Chronic stress has been shown to prematurely reduce telomere length – and we know that this leads to premature ageing. Find your Zen and do what it takes to reduce your stress. Some people enjoy getting outdoors, some love music or reading, cycling or painting. There are a million articles on this, so I wont go on, but find your happy place – if not for your sanity, then for your telomeres!
We haven’t yet found the elusive fountain of youth, but science is moving in the right direction. A few simple lifestyle changes are PROVEN to keep you happy and youthful. Send us your before and after photos!