Healthy Lifestyle May Reverse Cell Ageing: Study

First Posted: Sep 17, 2013 05:58 AM EDT

A team of researchers has discovered that following a healthy lifestyle with proper diet, meditation and moderate exercise results in the lengthening of telomerase, a part of chromosome responsible for reversing cell ageing.

The research was led by Dr. Dean Ornish and his fellow researchers from the Preventive Medicine Research Institute and the UCSF (University of California, San Francisco).

The researchers conducted a study on 35 men diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer. Out of the 35 men, 10 men switched their lifestyle and started following a schedule with a vegetarian diet along with moderate exercising, yoga and meditation. The remaining 25 men continued with their old lifestyle. These men were closely observed by the researchers through biopsies and screening over five years.

The researchers analyzed the participants and tried finding a link between the lifestyle changes, telomerase activity and the telomere length.

Telomeres are protective caps present at the tail of the chromosomes, which protect the chromosomes from fusing or from weakening.

"Our genes, and our telomeres, are not necessarily our fate," Dr. Dean Ornish, MD, UCSF clinical professor of medicine, and founder and president of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, said in a press release.

"So often people think 'Oh, I have bad genes, there's nothing I can do about it. But these findings indicate that telomeres may lengthen to the degree that people change how they live. Research indicates that longer telomeres are associated with fewer illnesses and longer life," Dr. Ornish added.

A notable increase of ten percent in the telomeres of the ten participants following healthier lifestyles was observed. Whereas the participants who did not follow any change in their lifestyle had about three percent shorter telomere lengths at the end of the five year study. The lengths of the telomeres often decrease over time.

The researchers also found that there were more dramatic improvements in the lengths of the telomere of the people who altered their behavior by following the recommended lifestyle more strictly.

The researchers said that these findings can be relevant to the general population and not just men with prostate cancer.

"We looked at telomeres in the participants' blood, not their prostate tissue," said Ornish.

This research is a follow up of a similar three-month long pilot investigation conducted in 2008 involving the same participants, who were recommended to follow a healthy lifestyle schedule. At the end of the three-month investigation a notable increase in telomerase activity was observed.

This study was designed to study the impact of healthy lifestyle on telomere length and telomerase activity in these men over a longer span of time.

"This was a breakthrough finding that needs to be confirmed by larger studies," said co-senior author Peter R. Carroll, MD, MPH, professor and chair of the UCSF Department of Urology.

"Telomere shortening increases the risk of a wide variety of chronic diseases. We believe that increases in telomere length may help to prevent these conditions and perhaps even lengthen lifespan," Carroll concluded.

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