Do you have any knowledge about the critical role of telomeres within your cells? Like most, you probably have little or no knowledge. Continue reading to understand the importance of telomeres, as they are in large part a reflection of how fast you age.
What are Telomeres?
Telomeres are end caps at the end of our chromosomes. Similar to the plastic cap at the end of a shoelace that keeps the shoelace from fraying, our DNA has telomeres that ‘cap’ the ends of chromosomes to protect them from damage during cell division and prevent the DNA from unraveling. Therefore, telomeres are critical to our health. These protective end caps have a vital role in keeping us younger and healthier.
Unfortunately, as we age, these caps shorten, which causes instability in the entire library of our genes, known as the genome. When our genome within the cell is unbalanced, genes express improperly in the direction of dysfunction and lead to the development of disease.
As you may know, the natural process of cellular division is the way our bodies grow, repair and age. What you may not know is that every time our cells divide, our telomeres shorten. Bummer, huh? When a chromosome finally loses its telomeres, damage occurs and the cell dies. Therefore, the longer our telomeres, the more times a cell can divide before it reaches the end of its lifespan.
What Can Protect Your Telomeres From Damage and Slow Down Aging?
Telomerase is the enzyme that repairs telomeres to keep cells dividing as nature intended. However, if telomerase is the key to lengthening our telomeres, how do we produce more telomerase within our cells?
That’s a great question!
Researchers have recently concluded that it is telomere repair, rather than the length of telomeres, that determines health in elderly adults. The problem is that as we age, telomerase is not produced sufficiently, thus facilitating the aging process.
The rate of telomere shortening is accelerated when cells are exposed to an over-abundance of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) or free radicals, also known as cellular exhaust. Poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol increase the production of free radicals and consequently shorten telomeres. Also, about 4.4% of the air we breathe turns into “a destructive force [or cellular exhaust] that can damage cells and tissues.” This damage leads to premature aging, shortened telomeres and disease development.
Ways To Support Telomerase:
A Healthy Diet – The Mediterranean Diet has been associated with longer telomeres and telomere repair in elderly adults.
Red wine, Green Tea and Quercetin (found in red apple peel) have been shown to prevent telomere shortening in lab animals.
Omega-3 oils have been associated with lessening the rate at which telomeres shorten.
Dietary Supplements such as turmeric and resveratrol, among others, have been shown to support the production of telomerase.
Adequate Rest – 8 to 10 hours of sleep.
Master Cellular Endogenous Antioxidants (Antioxidants that are organic to the human body) – Glutathione, catalase, and superoxide dismutase-SOD are organic to the human body and play a vital role in balancing out the free radical imbalance within our cells. You may know this free-radical imbalance as “oxidative stress”, and we all battle it, around the clock, whether we feel it or not.
The Role of Nrf2 and Telomere Integrity
The master antioxidants glutathione, catalase and superoxide dismutase-SOD are activated through the Nrf2 protein pathway, as discussed in an earlier article. The activation of the Nrf2 pathway has been shown to be the first line of defense to maintain telomere integrity because it activates the body’s own production of antioxidant enzymes.
The Glutathione and Telomerase Connection
The Nrf2 pathway also produces the “master cellular antioxidant,” glutathione. An increase in glutathione activity directly parallels improvement in telomerase activity within our cells. A study in the Journal of Biological Chemistry found that when a chemical that depletes glutathione production is introduced, our cells telomerase activity decreases by 60%.