Our cells do not remain the same during our lives.

In their majority, they are divided replacing the worn cells. The frequency of division and replacement differ from organ to organ. These divisions and replacements cannot happen indefinitely. There is a limit. In each division, our cells get older and get closer to their limit.

What is Telomere?

From the Greek words: Telos=end and Meros= part

Telomeres are an essential part of human cells that affect how our cells age. They are the caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protect our chromosomes. Telomeres are shortened as we age, but they can also be shortened by stress, smoking, obesity, lack of exercise and a poor diet. In 1961, Leonard Hayflick states that our cells have a certain limit on the divisions they can make. This number is called the Hayflick limit and determines our TELOMERE lifetime.

Each telomere, at capture, has a length of 15,000 units (bases). In each division, a part of these bases is not replicated, and thus the length of the telomeres decreases gradually. In each division of the cell, the telomeres diminish, eventually losing the cell’s ability to multiply and die. Much of the telomere is lost during the embryonic period. At birth, the length of our telomere chromosomes has already dropped to 10,000. During our lives as the cells are divided, the length of the telomeres continues to decrease and when we reach 5,000 then we die.

What do telomeres do?

• They help to organize each of our 46 chromosomes in the control center of our cells.
• They protect the ends of our chromosomes by forming a cap. If the telomeres were not there, our chromosomes may end up sticking to other chromosomes.
• They allow the chromosome to be replicated properly during cell division:

Every time a cell carries out DNA replication the chromosomes are shortened by about 25-200 bases per replication. However, because the ends are protected by telomeres, the only part of the chromosome that is lost, is the telomere, and the DNA is left undamaged. Without telomeres, important DNA would be lost every time a cell divide. The telomeres shorten with each cell division. When telomeres get too short, our cells can no longer reproduce, which causes our tissues to degenerate and eventually die. Accumulated biological damage causes our cells to divide at a higher rate, which shrinks our telomeres faster, causing us to age and die earlier than the maximum genetically predetermined lifespan.
Telomere shortening is considered not only a result of the biological aging process but also a risk factor for many disorders such as neurodegeneration, macular degeneration, coronary artery diseases, hypertension, diabetes, pulmonary fibrosis.

The enzyme of Immortality!

In our body, there is an enzyme that inhibits the shrinkage of telomeres. That enzyme is called telomerase. Telomerase is the mechanism that regulates the gradual aging of our cells. Telomeres shorten each time a cell divides and at a certain point, when they reach a critical length, the cell can no longer divide and will die. Telomerase lengthens the telomeres, slows down, and is likely to inhibit cell aging. Telomerase is an enzyme that lengthens telomeres by adding on repeating sequences of DNA. Telomerase binds to the ends of the telomere via an RNA template that is used for the attachment of a new strand of DNA.

Recent research shows that lifestyle-related risk factors have a negative impact on the action of telomerase. Changes in our lifestyle significantly increase the action of telomerase and reinforce the corrective mechanisms in human cells.

Can telomeres be lengthened?

The two biggest factors that affect telomere length are chronological aging and genetics. Lifestyle factors have also been related to shorter telomere length. Unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, smoking habits play a critical role along with stress. The type of stress determines how big its effect is. Numerous studies have also shown that oxidative stress is associated with accelerated telomere shortening and dysfunction.
An enzyme called telomerase is responsible for protecting telomeres from shortening during DNA replication. Telomerase maintains and may even lengthen telomeres by adding nucleotides to the chromosome ends. The amount of this enzyme in our bodies declines as we age. This shortening is thought to be one of several factors that causes cells to age.

How can we encourage telomere lengthening and delay shortening?

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity has been found to be an indicator of shorter telomeres.
  • Exercise on a regular basis. Exercise can reduce oxidative stress.
  • Manage chronic stress.
  • Eat the right food. Food rich in antioxidants can protect DNA from oxidative stress. A diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low in red or processed meats.
  • Supplements. Some supplements can help the body make its own antioxidants.
  • Maintaining low levels of Homocysteine (examining the levels of Homocysteine, can show the degree of oxidative stress).
  • Vitamin C and Vitamin D3 are powerful antioxidants and are suggested to decrease oxidative damage.
  • Zinc: Research on zinc metallic minerals (25-50 mg per day) and magnesium (400-800 mg per day) shows that it is vital for DNA replication during cell division. Lack of these nutrients can lead to DNA damage and shorter telomeres.
  • Tocotrienols are a group of chemicals that are part of the vitamin E family. Mixed tocotrienols (a full-spectrum form of Vitamin E) at a dose of 400 to 800 IU per day can restore the length of telomeres and prevent their loss by helping to produce the enzyme telomerase.
  • Superoxide Dismutase (SOD) is a powerful natural antioxidant enzyme produced inside our cells. Researchers are now studying the potential of superoxide dismutase as an anti-aging treatment since it is now known that SOD levels are falling, while free radical levels increase as we get older.
  • TA 65 is a chemical isolated from the plant Astragalus membranaceous, commonly known as Huang Qi in Chinese. Although the level of TA65 at a precautionary daily dose of 10 grams of Astragalus is quite small, it still works well in preventing a list of diseases.
As an epilogue: Inner happiness, good nutrition, exercise are the keys to a long and healthy life!