Healthy Lifestyle Improves Aging Marker

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Healthy Lifestyle Improves Aging Marker

Telomeres are DNA-protein complexes at the end of chromosomes. Telomeres have been shown to shorten with age and appear to be the closest marker we have for biological aging. An earlier study showed that obese women and women who smoked both had significantly shorter telomeres than normal-weight women who did not smoke.1 Shorter telomeres are also associated with an increased risk of many different types of cancer. Cells use an enzyme called telomerase to repair and lengthen their telomeres.

A recent study looked at the telomerase activity in the immune cells of 30 men diagnosed with early prostate cancer before and after 3 months on a very-low-fat, near-vegetarian diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These men also took antioxidant and fish oil supplements, exercised, and adopted a variety of stress management techniques. The researchers found that their telomerase activity levels increased by 29% in their immune cells after 3 months.2 An increased in telomerase activity should enable the body?s immune cells to better fight cancer. Another study looked at the connection between BMI and prostate cancer mortality in a group of 2,546 men diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Their results showed that the overweight men were nearly 50% more likely to die of their prostate cancer than the normal weight men. The prognosis for the obese men with prostate cancer was even worse with them 2.66 times more likely to die of their prostate cancer than the normal weight men.3

Bottom Line: A healthier diet and lifestyle may not only help prevent cancer but growing evidence suggests adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle after the diagnosis of cancer likely slows the progression of the disease and lengthens life expectancy.

By James J. Kenney, PhD, RD, FACN


1. Lancet 2005;366:662-4

2. Lancet Oncology 2008;9:1048-57

3. Lancet Oncology 2008;9:1039-47

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