What happened to Part 1? I wrote a longevity blog in 2013 which you can access here.
Further research has allowed me to elaborate on this, so here I bring you Part 2, with Part 3 to come next month. Who knows what amazing information is yet to be discovered, which I could be blogging about in a few years from now? Since living a long, happy, healthy and productive life is a top priority for me, you can be sure that I’ll be writing about, and acting upon, anything that I find out in years to come.
At seventy you are but a child. At eighty you are merely a youth, and at ninety if the ancestors invite you into heaven, ask them to wait until you are 100, then you might consider it. – ancient Okinawan proverb.
Telomeres are now considered by some authors to be the ultimate dictator of our longevity. Telomeres are the little end bits of chromosomes which shorten with each cell replication. However, the telomere length can be increased with a neat little enzyme called telomerase. But before we get on to how telomerase works, let’s take a look at telomeres and think about how they affect us. Remember of course that although researchers (and in particular the 2009 Nobel Prize winners who won for their work on telomeres) like to focus on one thing, it’s never really one thing. We have to focus on everything.
Telomeres shorten with every cell division, and cells can multiply about 50 times before they die. Young people’s telomeres generally are between 8,000 and 10,000 nucleotides long (nucleotides are the building blocks of your chromosomes), but old people may have as few as 5,000 nucleotides making up their telomeres.
Telomeres are shorter in certain disease processes, which has led to the “what came first” question. Is it that the disease-causing processes also shorten the telomeres, or is it that the telomeres just happen to be shorter anyway when the disease rears its head? So far, no one knows. However, it’s interesting to note that telomerase, the enzyme that rebuilds telomeres, can either be stimulated or blocked. Since telomeres seem to hold so many keys for us in relation to whether we age successfully or not, let’s look at how.
Firstly, here are some nutrients that help to lengthen your telomeres, most likely as a result of their action on boosting telomerase. These nutrients also have other beneficial actions that go way past just their activity with telomerase.
Vitamin D. In one study of more than 2,000 women, those with higher vitamin D levels were found to have fewer aging-related changes in their DNA, as well as lowered inflammatory responses. Women with higher levels of vitamin D are more likely to have longer telomeres, and vice versa. This means that people with higher levels of vitamin D may actually age more slowly than people with lower levels of vitamin D. Can you eat it? Not really, unless you want to start eating organ meats and eggs (off the menu here, for obvious reasons). You have to get it from the sun, or supplementation, or both. See last month’s blog for more information.
Broad spectrum antioxidants, notably astaxanthin (from algae, rather than fish). It is by far the most powerful carotenoid antioxidant when it comes to free radical scavenging, being 65 times more powerful than vitamin C, 54 times more powerful than beta-carotene, and 14 times more powerful than vitamin E. It’s also far more effective than other carotenoids at “singlet oxygen quenching,” which is a particular type of oxidation. It is 550 times more powerful than vitamin E, and 11 times more powerful than beta-carotene at neutralizing singlet oxygen. Another feature that separates astaxanthin from other carotenoids is that it cannot function as a pro-oxidant. Many antioxidants will act as pro-oxidants (meaning they start to cause rather than combat oxidation) when present in your tissues in sufficient concentrations. This is why you don’t want to go overboard taking too many antioxidant supplements like beta-carotene, for example. Astaxanthin, on the other hand, does not function as a pro-oxidant, even when present in high amounts, which makes it massively beneficial. For those taking this whole-food supplement, you can celebrate – it’s got bioavailable astaxanthin in it.
Lastly, one of the most profound features of astaxanthin is its unique ability to protect the entire cell from damage – both the water-soluble part and the fat-soluble portion of the cell. Other antioxidants usually affect just one or the other. This is due to astaxanthin’s unique physical characteristics that allow it to reside within the cell membrane whilst also protecting the inside of the cell. Can you eat it? Yes. Eat algae. And supplement with this.
Essential fatty acids. Some authors state that one of the top foods for rebuilding telomerase is extra virgin cold pressed olive oil. Make a salad dressing out of it. Don’t cook with it and don’t heat it, since the benefits would be destroyed. You can use EFA supplements as well. I have previously experimented with Echium oil, which gives a good distribution of omega 3, 6 and 9. However I currently use Juice Plus Omega blend which contains omega 3, 5, 6, 7 and 9, and is the most complete plant-based source of essential fats that I have found so far. You can order it here.
Well, that’s enough to be going on with for now. Next month I’ll bring you the lowdown on other aspects of longevity, including an additional list of nutrients that boost telomerase activity.