"This is the first study showing that anything can increase telomerase. If it were a new drug that had been shown to do this, it would be a billion-dollar drug. But this is something that people can do for free."
-Dr. Dean Ornish, Head of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, CA-
LIVE LONG. According to a small study published by Dr. Dean Ornish today in Lancet Oncology, it just might be possible.
PROSPER. With the news coming out of Wall Street these days, that might be harder to accomplish! You're on your own with that one.
What was the Ornish study?
It was a carefully limited pilot that looked at 30 men with low-risk prostate cancer who followed a prescribed Ornish-style "straight and narrow" healthy lifestyle program for 3 months. Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, a University of California at San Francisco biochemist, was the lead investigator. The researchers propose a much larger, strictly controlled research project, but hope that this study, "..might be a powerful motivator for many people to beneficially change their diet and lifestyle."
What lifestyle changes did the group make:
- Ate a diet rich in fruits, vegetables whole grains, legumes & soy
- Limited the fat content of their diet to 10% of the total calories
- Kept the diet low in refined sugars
- Took vitamin supplements and fish oil
- Exercised moderately for 30 minutes a day.
- Participated in an hour of a daily stress reducing activity, like meditation or yoga.
What were the study results?
After 3 months the participants' blood levels of the enzyme telomerase were 29% higher than when they began. 24 out of 30 men showed significant increases in their telomerase levels.
What do higher telomerase blood levels mean?
Looking at the graph above you can see that our telomeres keep getting smaller as we age. They are the control center for longevity. Shorter telomeres = shorter life.
"Shortening of telomeres is also an indicator of disease risk and premature death in some types of cancer, including breast, prostate, colon and lung cancer."
Emmuanel Skorkalakes, of the Wistar Institue in Philadelphia, explains,
"When the telomeres become short, then you start cutting into actual chromosomes where there are genes essential for our body. To prevent the fraying DNA in all those aging cells from seeding maliganant tumors, the body turns them dormant. Your body shuts down more and more cells every day and you become old."
So anything that we can do--and do without drugs--to keep our telomeres long is definitely a good thing! If you can increase the enzyme telomerase, it can fix the fraying ends of the telomeres, and lengthen them as well. This increases longevity and maintains the cells of our immune system.
Cancer promoting genes are decreased. Cancer preventing genes are increased.
An earlier study of this same group of men, published in June in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed they also experienced dramatic positive changes in the activity of about 500 genes. The amazing part was that over the course of 3 short months of healthy diet, exercise & stress reduction they were able to increase the activity of the disease-preventing genes, and shut down some of the disease-promoting genes that are associated with prostate and breast cancer. Interesting that Dr. Esselstyn says "you can make yourself heart-attack proof in 3-4 weeks" with a similar diet.
Dr. Ornish wasn't the first researcher to discover a way to increase telomerase.
I disagree with Dr. Ornish that "this is the first study to show that anything can increase telomerase." Back in the January 28, 2008 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine researchers compared the length of leukocyte telomeres (a marker of aging) between twins who exercised and those who didn't.
They chose twins for this study because they share much of the same DNA & are raised in similar environments as children. This way they're really comparing apples to apples. They found that those who exercised, based on their telomere length, were biologically younger than those who didn't.
Again, exercise can make you younger. In fact, those who exercised the most, putting in more than 3 hours of vigorous activity a week had the longest telomeres, which compared to the same length of the couch potatoes who were 10 years younger!
What I liked best about this study was it further confirmed that we can make positive changes to improve our lives. And if confirms much of what Dr. David Servan-Schreiber says in his new book: Anti-Cancer - A New Way of Life. You can read more here.