Thursday, October 7, 2010
This Will Change the World as We Know It" by Dr. Al Sears
This had such an impact on me, I still remember it: I was sitting at my desk almost 20 years ago. I like to stay abreast of non-medical scientific literature. So I picked up my issue of Scientific American and something jumped off the page at me.
Elizabeth Blackburn had made a truly revolutionary discovery. I'll never forget it.
When I read that she'd found a solution to aging already in our genes, I took out a piece of paper and wrote down something that I still have today. It says, "This will change the world as we know it."
Now, finally, it seems other people think so, too. Elizabeth Blackburn won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Why all the fuss? Let me explain why this discovery is so powerful…
She and her colleagues had discovered the enzyme telomerase that allows you to rebuild the end part of your chromosomes called the telomere.
Telomeres are like the plastic caps on your shoelaces … only at the ends of your DNA. They keep your chromosomes from unraveling.
But here's the rub…
Each time your cells divide, your DNA copies itself exactly. And every time that happens, the telomeres get a tiny bit shorter. When telomeres get too short, the cell stops dividing. This is because there's not enough of the "cap" left to stop the DNA from unraveling.
In other words, it's the length of your telomeres that let your chromosomes know they can't make good copies any more. It's like an auto-shut-off mechanism so you don't make damaged DNA.
What this means is that telomere shortening serves as your genetic clock. This in itself is a huge discovery, but there's even more to it. After years of research and testing, scientists have found a way to stop your telomeres from shortening.
How? The enzyme that can turn back your biological clock: telomerase.
Telomerase is in all your cells, but it's usually turned off. The key to slowing or even reversing the aging process is activating it.
Telomerase's job is to make a blueprint so your telomeres can rebuild themselves when your DNA makes copies. This way, your telomeres don't get shorter. Sometimes they even get longer.
In fact, Blackburn discovered that telomerase is so important, even healthy, growing cells can have "catastrophic telomere shortening" without the enzyme. And when it's active, telomerase rebuilds telomeres that have suffered shortening.
Eventually, this discovery could lead to immortality. But activating your telomerase has benefits for you, right now.
Old Cells Can Be Young Again. When you get sick, your immune system makes copies of its disease-fighting white blood cells called T-cells. These cells divide over and over again to fight off the bacteria or virus that's invading your body.
The more often these cells reproduce, the shorter their telomeres become until they stop copying. The older you get, the fewer active T-cells you have because they've fought off as much sickness as they can. The bottom line is that when your telomeres are short, your immune system looks and acts old.
This makes your risk for infection and disease much higher. One study looked at about 150 people from 60-75 years old. The ones who had shorter telomeres were three times more likely to die from heart disease. And they were eight times more likely to die from an infectious disease.
Shortened telomeres also appear to be the mechanism for many chronic diseases like:
• Diabetes. When you eat too many carbohydrates, your pancreas is asked to create more insulin than it's supposed to. And to get the job done, the pancreas has to create more of a factory to create the insulin it needs by making more cells. If the pancreas is continually challenged to produce more and more insulin, the cells have to continue to divide. When their telomeres are too short, they can't reproduce anymore. And your body can't make the insulin you need. This is what causes diabetes.
• Atherosclerosis. One study I read looked at men with high blood pressure. Those with shorter telomeres in their white blood cells were more likely to get heart disease.
• Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's patients' glial cells, the maintenance cells to the brain, have short telomeres. Some kind of toxic environmental hazard caused those cells to replicate to defend themselves.
But you don't have to let your immune system grow old. When telomerase is activated, you strengthen your cells by keeping the telomeres long, strong and young. And the younger your cells are, the more powerful they are at fighting sickness and disease.
In fact, for most of the people in a brand new study, telomerase activation therapy reduced the percentage of immune cells with short telomeres by 10-50 percent. And the amount of older immune cells decreased by 10-20 percent.7 This represents an "apparent age reversal of 5-20 years!"
Grow Younger Naturally
Tons of research is going on every day and you'll be reading more and more about telomerase in the coming months. But in the meantime, you can help slow the aging of your cells with nutrients.
One of the best nutrients for activating your telomerase is trusty omega-3. A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association followed about 600 people over a full five years. They found that daily supplements of omega-3 significantly increased telomerase activity.
Luckily for you, there are lots of foods you can eat to bulk up on omega-3 right now. Cold-water, high-fat fish like mackerel, wild salmon, lake trout and herring are good sources. Also, you can eat plenty of raw nuts and seeds. Walnuts, brazil nuts, almonds and pumpkin seeds are some of my favorites.
The good news doesn't stop there, though. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition recently looked at telomere length in about 600 women. Those who used vitamins had telomeres that were on average 5 percent longer than those who didn't supplement.
Three vitamins your telomeres need are B12, C and E. You can get these in a variety of foods.
Unfortunately, in most circumstances, you might not be able to get enough of these vitamins from what you eat. If you can't, supplementing is a good option.
• Vitamin B12 – I recommend taking at least 100 mcg per day. But, you can take as much as 500 mcg per day to help improve your brain function and boost your energy levels.
• Vitamin C – Based on my own experience, taking up to 3,000 mg per day is a good amount if you're currently in good health. And in times of stress or sickness, you can take up to 20,000 mg.
It's very important to make sure you're getting a natural form of vitamin C, not a synthetic form. Natural vitamin C is over 100 percent more effective than the synthetic form. And it can stay in your system longer.
• Vitamin E – There are eight different types of vitamin E. And they get divided into two different groups: tocopherols and tocotrienols. Most multivitamins you find have only synthetic alpha tocopherol. Make sure you get a vitamin with a natural E complex. That way, you get all four tocopherols. Plus, natural E has twice the bioavailability of the synthetic form, so your body can absorb it better.
Vitamin D is called the "sunshine vitamin" for good reason. But it might soon be renamed the "telomere vitamin." That's because a separate study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at more than 2,000 women of all ages. The more vitamin D they had in their bodies, the longer their telomeres were. On top of that, people who supplemented with vitamin D had longer telomeres than those who didn't.
To get some vitamin D in your system, go out in the sun for 20 minutes each day. Your body will use sunlight to make tons of the stuff. If you don't live in the Sunshine State, like I do, you might need to eat some of those same cold-water fish that give you omega-3s. There's also vitamin D in egg yolks and orange juice.
If you need to take a vitamin D supplement, I recommend 2,000 IU a day.
1 Cong, Yusheng, Shay, Jerry W., "Actions of human telomerase beyond telomeres," Cell Research June 2008; 18:725-732
2 Simon, R., Chan, W. L., Blackburn, Elizabeth H., "Telomeres and telomerase," Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B 2004; 359, 109-121
3 Cawthon, R.M., Smith, K.R., O'Brien, E., et al, "Association between telomere length in food and mortality in people aged 60 years or older," Lancet 2003; 361(9355): 393-395
4 Sampson, M., Winterbone, M., et al, "Monocyte Telomere Shortening and Oxidative DNA Damage in Type 2 Diabetes," Diabetes Care 2006
5 Benetos, A., Gardner, J., et al, "Short Telomeres are Associated with Increased Carotid Atherosclerosis in Hypertensive Subjects," Hypertension 2004
6 Farfara, D., Lifshitz, V., et al, "Neuroprotective and neurotoxic properties of glial cells in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease," Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine 2008
7 Harley, C., Weimin, L., et al, "A Natural Product Telomerase Activator as Part of a Health Maintenance Program," Rejuvenation Research 2010
9 Ramin Farzaneh-Far, M.D., "Association of Marine Omega-3 Fatty Acid Levels with Telomeric Aging in Patients with Coronary Heart Disease," JAMA 2010; 303(3):250-257
10 Xu, Qun, Parks, Christine G., DeRoo, Lisa A., et al, "Multivitamin use and telomere length in women," Am J Clin Nutr March 2009; 89: 1857-1863, 2009
11 Richards, J Brent, et al, "Higher serum vitamin D concentrations are associated with longer leukocyte telomere length in women," Journal of Clinical Nutrition Nov. 2007; Vol. 86, No. 5, 1420-1425
Dr. Al Sears