A study conducted at the UC San Francisco and the Preventive Medicine Research Institute suggests that changing lifestyle can help lengthen lifespan. It was found that healthy changes in diet, active lifestyle, stress management and social support may lengthen telomeres, which are associated with fewer illnesses and longer life.
Telomeres, combinations of DNA and protein that protect the ends of chromosomes and help them remain stable, are the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes that affect how quickly cells age. As they become shorter as a result of weakening of structural integrity, the cells age and die quicker.
The researchers investigated the effect of diet and lifestyle choices on health and disease. According to the lead author, genes and telomeres are not necessarily our fate and can be altered by following a healthy lifestyle.
For five years, they followed 35 men with localized, early-stage prostate cancer to explore the relationship between comprehensive lifestyle changes and telomere length and telomerase activity. 10 subjects embarked on lifestyle changes (a plant-based diet; moderate exercise; stress reduction). The group was compared to rest of the subjects, who did not make major lifestyle changes.
The group that made the lifestyle changes increased telomere length by 10 percent (approximately). The men in the control group who were not asked to alter their lifestyle had measurably shorter telomeres - nearly 3 percent shorter - when the five-year study ended.
It is found that telomere shortening increases the risk of a wide variety of chronic diseases. According to the researchers, increases in telomere length may help to prevent these conditions and perhaps even lengthen lifespan.
The study is published in The Lancet Oncology.
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