6 top strategies for healthy telomeres

In my last post, I talked about research showing that lifestyle changes, in general,  and can impact on telomere length. But as this is a hotbed of research, scientists have been narrowing down some of the key strategies for maintaining or  lengthening telomeres.

Together they may indeed may translate into long life.

Dreamstime Photo © Grabpa |

Dreamstime Photo
© Grabpa |

Get your fill of omega-3 fats

Studies show that  the omega-3 fats found in cold water fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) protect telomeres. California scientists assessed blood levels of these fats and telomere length in subjects with heart disease and followed them for five years. Those with the lowest omega-3 levels came up shorter on telomere length.

Up your fibre intake and include plenty of antioxidant-rich options

While many people still think of fibre simply as a remedy for irregularity, it’s a nutrient linked to protection against telomere shortening. Include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts to up your intake.

As the process of oxidation is linked to telomere length, a diet chock full of these same foods also supply a variety of antioxidants.

Go for Meatless Mondays  and  more

When Australian researchers assessed telomere length in colons for four weeks in subjects after eating various amounts of red and white meats, telomere length decreased as the percentage of meat increased. But the good news was  the addition of resistant starch  tempered the effect. Legumes such as lentils and beans and whole grains such as oats are all sources of resistant starch. So make the switch to meatless meals more often and when you do have meat on the menu, partner it with assorted goodies like beans – a bean-filled chili, for example.

Practice waist management

You hear it everywhere you turn: Get rid of excess pounds. But now science is providing even more reason to do it as research shows obesity can cause damage at the cellular level due to telomere shortening.

There is good news, though, about the impact of weight loss on telomere length. As high waist measures are linked to an increased risk of colon cancer, Australian researchers looked at telomere length in the lower gastrointestinal tract in obese men before, during and after a weight loss program. And as they predicted, shedding excess weight actually lengthened these important cell protectors leading to a decreased odds of developing colon cancer.

Get rid of chronic stress

Chronic stress can lead to hormonal changes that go hand in hand with telomere shortening. But for those who carry excess weight, the combination of overweight and stress appears to have a synergistic effect on telomeres. In other words, being overweight together with being under stress can lead to more damage than if each occurred on its own.

Let’s get physical

Here’s another healthy living recommendation that we hear about endlessly: regular exercise is good for you. It’s key for easier girth control as well as offers heart healthy perks such as boosting levels of the beneficial HDL-cholesterol. In addition, it helps in maintaining healthy blood pressure and blood sugar readings.

It also provides advantages for those under stress. While it’s known that exercise can help to reduce levels of stress hormones, California scientists investigated the impact of exercise on telomere length in women under stress.  They predicted that exercise might protect from telomere shortening in those under stress. And they were right.

They tested healthy women under stress and found that those who were sedentary had shorter telomere length than women who engaged in regular vigorous exercise.

Yet another reason to put on some workout shoes.

What’s your plan to lengthen your telomeres? Please share in the comment section below.

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Categories: Research Roundup

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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One Comment on “6 top strategies for healthy telomeres”

  1. Pollen & Wax
    September 25, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

    Thank you for this article! A good reminder to get those omegas 🙂

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