12 January - 20 June 2016

Diet might affect the ageing process

25 Sept 13

Telomeres are protective DNA and protein complexes at the end of linear chromosomes that promote chromosomal stability. Telomere shortness in human beings is thought to be a prognostic marker of ageing, disease, and premature morbidity.   In a report in The Lancet, a group from the USA report on lifestyle interventions in a small group of men who had biopsy-proven low-risk prostate cancer and had chosen to undergo active surveillance. Eligible participants were enrolled between 2003 and 2007 from previous studies and selected according to the same criteria. Men in the intervention group followed a programme of comprehensive lifestyle changes (diet, activity, stress management, and social support), and the men in the control group underwent active surveillance alone.  The lifestyle intervention included the following four components: diet high in whole foods, plant-based protein, fruits, vegetables, unrefined grains, and legumes, and low in fat (approximately 10% of calories) and refined carbohydrates; moderate aerobic exercise; stress management; and increased social support.  The group took blood samples at 5 years and compared relative telomere length and telomerase enzymatic activity per viable cell with those at baseline, and assessed their relation to the degree of lifestyle changes. When data from the two groups were combined, adherence to lifestyle changes was significantly associated with relative telomere length after adjustment for age and the length of follow-up. At 5 years, telomerase activity had decreased from baseline by an average of 0·25 units in the lifestyle intervention group, and by an average 1·08 units in the control group.  Hence the group argues that lifestyle intervention was associated with increases in relative telomere length. They call for larger randomised controlled trials to confirm this finding.

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