Telomeres may be a key to the aging process. A telomere is a kind of DNA cap at the end of a chromosome that protects the end of the chromosome from damage. Researcher Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn compares them to the tips at the ends of new shoelaces which prevent unraveling. As they shorten, the ends unravel and this unraveling has been linked with aging.
The "shoe lace tip" at the end of each chromosome is shortened with each cell division. As a cell ages, it keep shortening until it reaches a certain length. At that point cells stop dividing. This growth is stopped in response to DNA damage in the cell. This protects a DNA damaged cell from replicating abnormal cells which could lead to cancer.
As these "shoelace tips" shorten, cell division slows, cells die and aging occurs.
In addition, to normal aging, these "shoe lace tips" can be worn down through an unhealthy lifestyle. For example, short telomeres have now been linked to a sedentary lifestyle, obesity and a lower intake of certain nutrients (e.g. omega 3 fatty acids.) Poor diet and lifestyle choices such as smoking and obesity can contribute to inflammation which can also lead to telomere shortening.
Furthermore, accelerated cell aging has now been found in many conditions of stress, including trauma exposure, major depression and other psychiatric disorders.
Recent research from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and published in the Journal of Arteriosclerosis, Thombosis and Vascular Biology has found that telomere shortening accurately predicts the risk of developing heart disease, heart attacks and early death. Research showed that short telomeres increases the risk of heart attack by 50% and increases early death by 25%.
In addition, an enzyme in our bodies called telomerase can restore the telomeres. So one key is to find a way to keep our cells producing telomerase enzymes and keep our telomeres long. Fortunately, there are lifestyle changes and nutrients which will help keep our "shoe lace tips" from shortening as rapidly and also keep up our supply of telomerase.
In January of 2010, researchers at the University of California in San Francisco reported results on patients they had studied over 5 years who had a history of heart attacks and/or heart disease. They were specifically looking at the effects of omega 3 fats on aging and telomere length.
Individuals who had higher levels of omega 3 fats in their blood had significantly less shortening than those who had low levels in their blood. The study did not differentiate between food and omega 3 supplements.
Carnosine supplements have also been shown to help block telomere shortening and reduce aging effects. Carnosine is naturally found in free-range meats and fish. Or carnosine supplements can be taken (1000 mg per day).
Shao L, Li QH, Tan Z. L-carnosine reduces telomere damage and shortening rate in cultured normal fibroblasts. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2004 Nov 12;324(2):931-6.
Psychological stress seems to shorten telomere length and speed up cell aging, but exercising could help to keep them healthy. In a group of women caring for family member with dementia, the women who exercised didn't have the same reduction in length that sedentary women did. Exercise seemed to protect the ends of chromosomes from stress-induced shortening.
In yet another study, researchers looked at 251 middle-aged and older women. Some of these women had been abused as children- and some hadn't. The women who were abused had shorter telomeres on average, but only among those who didn't exercise regularly. Again, exercise seemed to protect them against shortening related to stress.
In November 2010, a group of Harvard University researchers published results from a study in the journal, Nature. The experiment involved mice that were genetically engineered to lack telomerase. Without this protective enzyme, these mice only lived to about six months of age.
With this information, the Harvard team took a second group of prematurely aging mice, and at six months, they turned on the telomerase gene. They encountered shocking results. For the first time ever, an aged state of an animal was reversed and the mice became young again.
In The Lancet Oncology Journal in September 2008, Dr. Dean Ornish, along with Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn and Epel reported that "lifestyle changes can significantly increase telomerase activity and consequently telomere maintenance capacity in human immune-system cells."
This study included 30 men with low-risk prostate cancer who improved their diet, exercised moderately, and reduced stress. At the end of the study, the men had 29% higher levels of telomerase than when they began. The researchers also reported that gene expression in cells taken from the men had been modified and that the activity of disease-preventing genes increased and some disease-promoting genes including those involved in prostate and breast cancer had shut down.
The most amazing conclusion to this study was that the benefits happened in just 90 days using no drugs. This shows us that the ability to change the course of our human "shoe lace tips" does exist.
According to Jeffrey Dach, MD, founder and Medical Director of the TrueMedMD Clinic in Florida, supplementing with bioidentical hormones is important after age 50 in order to help to keep our telomeres long and healthy. He sites some of the following studies in support of bioidentical hormones.
An article by Yu-Sheng Cong, "Human Telomerase and Its Regulation" in 2002 (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC120798/) says that bioidentical hormones, 17 beta estadiol (estrogen) in particular, activates the telomerase enzyme, which in turn, keeps our telomeres long.
The main mechanism for the control and activation of the telomorase enzyme is the hTERT gene (human Telomerase Reverse Transcriptase) gene. The hTERT gene has 2 estrogen receptors which shows that estrogen activates telomerase enzymes.
Estogen blocking drugs such as tomoxifen block the hTERT estrogen receptors and turn off telomerase enzymes. Androgens also turned on the hTERT gene and activated telomerase. Androgen blocker drugs were found to inhibit telomerase enzymes.
An important note is that bioidentical hormones were used in the study. Bioidentical hormones differ from Hormone Replacement Therapy, which are drugs manufactured by the drug companies and not exactly the same as our own hormones.
After age 50 hormones for both men and women decline. The results of this study suggest that supplementing our bodies with bioidentical hormones after the age of 50 would be beneficial.
In 1999, Satoru Kyo showed that 17-Beta-Estradiol activates telomerase. (http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/59/23/5917.full)
In 2000 Silvia Misiti in Rome, Italy, showed that telomerase activity is regulated by 17 Beta Estradiol. (http://mcb.asm.org/cgi/content/full/20/11/3764)
In 2008, S. Bayne in Melbourne, Australia, showed that estrogen deficiency leads to telomere shortening and aging. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18936784)
In 2009 Rodrigo Calado from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, found that 17-Beta-Estradiol increased hTERT gene expression and telomerase activity. (http://bloodjournal.hematologylibrary.org/cgi/content/full/114/11/2236)
In 2010 a study by T. Imanishi in Wakayama, Japan, showed that 17-Beta-Estradiol helps telomerase activity and reduces the effects of aging. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19965898)
In a 2009 study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, resveratrol was found to enhance telomerase activity. (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1038/bjp.2008.272/abstract)
A 2007 study at the Medical School of Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, found that ginkgo biloba extract enhanced telomerase activity. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17312453)
A 2010 study from Medical University in Warsaw, Poland, found that Silymarin supported telomerase activity. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20838231)
T.A. Sciences has recently developed a supplement, TA-65. In double blind studies TA-65 was shown to provide strong protection and repair for our telomeres. In 2011 the journal, Rejuventation Research, published a study showing that TA-65 rejuvenates the immune system.
Some of the benefits of TA-65 include an enhanced immune system, better vision, more energy and stamina, and more youthful skin, hair and nails.
TA-65 was developed from a molecule in the herb astralagus. While astralagus has many benefits including enhancing the immune system, taking astralagus alone wasn't shown to provide the same benefits as taking the TA-65 derivative of astralagus.
Although TA-65 was shown to have good results and it is available, it is also quite costly. A monthly supply starts at about $200/month and can go up to $650/month.
The amount of TA-65 someone takes is dependent their age. The older an individual, the more TA-65 is taken.
According to, Noel Thomas Patton, the founder of the company manufacturing TA-65, the need to address the shortening should begin at about 40. He recommends that everyone get tested first to find out the length of their telomeres.
In the US, the company, Spectracell, has a test that can measure the length of telomeres. The test is called a Polymerase Chain Reaction test or PCR. Spectracell is located in Houston, Texas.
The TA-65 supplement should be prescribed by a certified physician and is purchased from MedQuest in Salt Lake City.
I have seen web sites that allow you to purchase TA-65 without going through a physician, though.
For more information on certified doctors and TA-65, see the T.A. Sciences website
MegaHydrate is a source of negatively ionized hydrogen that may be one of the most powerful antioxidants in nature. H- neutralizes all known free radicals, re-cycles all known other antioxidants in nature and also increases ATP production by 4 times. According to Dr. Patrick Flanagan, who developed Megahydrate over a 10 year period, it also protects telomeres from damage during cell division.
Megahydrate increases the Hayflick limit (the Hayflick limit is the number of times a normal cell population will divide before it stops, presumably because the telomeres shorten to a critical length) by 4+ times in cell cultures. By definition, this means that H- ions stimulate the production of telomerase. The best thing about MegaHydrate is that it is relatively inexpensive (about $29 for a bottle of 60 capsules.)
The race is on to find both natural substances and drugs that will prove to be effective in activating our telomerase enzymes and so lengthen our telomeres. Scientists believe that these discoveries will prove to be one of the most significant advances in our health in recent years.
The bottom line is that a healthy lifestyle with generous amounts of omega 3 fatty acids, regular exercise, Megahydrate supplementation, as well as other supplementation can help to keep your telomeres long, which in turn minimizes our rate of cell aging! If you can afford it, the new TA-65 supplement holds very promising results in protecting our cells.
As new information becomes available on activating our telomerase and keeping our telomeres long, I will continue to post the latest information!
"Exercise May Prevent Stress on Telomeres, a Measure of Cell Health" Proc National Academy Science USA 2004 December 7, 101 (49); 17312-17315