Telomeres are sections of genetic material that form a protective cap at the end of each chromosome in every cell of the body. When a cell divides, the telomere gets a tiny bit shorter, until there is no more telomere left to protect DNA from “unraveling,” and the cell dies. Cellular death causes the body to age, whether the cell is from cardiac muscle, skin, or brain tissue, thus making telomeres a novel biomarker for biological age. The longer one’s telomeres, the younger one’s biological age. Several things affect telomere attrition rate – both positive (good nutrient status, healthy blood sugar and lipid metabolism, normal weight, exercise, etc.) and negative (micronutrient deficiencies, inflammation, cellular stress, a sedentary lifestyle, etc.).
Shammas M. Telomeres, lifestyle, cancer, and aging. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2011 Jan; 14(1): 28–34. Illustration: Ivel DrFreitas MD, ABIM, ABAARM.
How is micronutrient status linked to the aging process?
Micronutrient status has direct implications for telomere length. This makes it especially important to correct specific deficiencies and maintain micronutrient balance. Measuring total antioxidant capacity via SPECTROX® is equally important as the body’s ability to handle oxidative stress contributes significantly to telomere health/length.
Why measure fatty acids?
OmegaCheck® measures the amount of three very important fatty acids (EPA, DHA, and DPA) in one’s blood. Fatty acids can either contribute to or alleviate inflammation, and the OmegaCheck determines the amount of these pro- and anti-inflammatory fatty acids. Although the protective omega-3 fatty acids influence enzyme and hormone systems throughout the body, they have gained attention primarily for their superb cardiovascular benefits. Since fatty acid status is a surrogate marker for inflammation and oxidative stress, it is not surprising that omega-3 fatty acids can slow cellular aging by preserving telomeres. When it comes to OmegaCheck, higher is better.
Omega-3 fatty acids can slow the aging process. There are many reasons for this: they reduce inflammation, help maintain the cardiovascular system healthy, and protect the brain. However, the existing research points to an entirely different mechanism of action against aging: protection of telomeres.
A recent study on people with active heart disease demonstrated that individuals with high blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids also had the lowest rate of telomere attrition, suggesting that omega-3 fatty acids protect against cellular aging.1 In another study, the adoption of comprehensive lifestyle changes (including daily supplementation with 3 grams of fish oil, which is high in omega-3 fatty acids) was associated with an increase in telomere length in human leukocytes.2 In animal studies, dietary enrichment of omega-3 fatty acids prolongs life span by approximately one-third.3
Yet another way that omega-3 fatty acids have a protective effect on telomeres is through their action on cortisol. Following six weeks of fish oil supplementation, a group of men and women in a study demonstrated significantly reduced4 cortisol, a stress hormone known to reduce the activity of telomerase,5 an enzyme that protects and even lengthens telomeres. Even stress-related cellular aging may be thwarted by omega-3 fatty acids!
SpectraCell's Telomere Analysis
SpectraCell’s telomere test measures a person’s telomere length. A control gene is also measured and compared to the telomere length, and then results are stated as a ratio. A higher ratio means a longer telomere, and younger biological age. The Telomere Score is also compared to other individuals in the same chronological age group.
The price of the Telomere Test is affordable and is also covered by insurance. Testing once each year or every other year is suggested to monitor the rate of telomere loss.
The great news is that with the telomere analysis and appropriate lifestyle, habits, you can protect your telomeres and reduce the rate at which they shorten! Discover your estimated cellular age today with a comprehensive, and individualized approach to managing the aging process.
1Ramin Farzaneh-Far et al.Association of Marine Omega-3 Fatty Acid Levels With Telomeric Aging in Patients With Coronary Heart Disease. JAMA 2010;303:250-257.
2Ornish D, Lin J, Daubenmier J et al. Increased telomerase activity and comprehensive lifestyle changes: a pilot study. Lancet Oncol 2008;9:1048-1057.
3Jolly CA, Muthukumar A, Avula CP, Troyer D, Fernandes G. Life span is prolonged in food-restricted autoimmune-prone (NZB x NZW)F(1) mice fed a diet enriched with (n-3) fatty acids. J Nutr 2001;131:2753-2760.
4Noreen EE, Sass MJ, Crowe ML, Pabon VA, Brandauer J, Averill LK. Effects of supplemental fish oil on resting metabolic rate, body composition, and salivary cortisol in healthy adults. J Int Soc Sport Nutr 2010;7:31.
5Choi J, Fauce SR, Effros RB. Reduced telomerase activity in human T lymphocytes exposed to cortisol. Brain Behav Immun 2008;22:600-605.