Telomeres (the protective end-caps for chromosomes) play a crucial role in the body’s biochemical processes. By becoming more knowledgeable about factors which may be influencing telomere length, we can better interpret results from Titanovo’s telomere testing kit. For the purpose of this article, we will consider diet’s influence on telomere length.
There are numerous academic studies which show an evidenced impact of diet on telomere length. Most promising, perhaps, are diets which have also been shown to increase lifespans in non-telomere related studies, such as the Mediterranean diet, calorie-restriction, and vegetarian/vegan diets. What they have in common are low-fat consumption, many greens and vegetables, and not many calories.
Perhaps the most impressive and widely-considered study was conducted by Crous-Bou et al. (2014), which tested female nurses and whether following the Mediterranean diet positively affected their telomere length. The large number of participants (over 4,000 nurses) gave more weight to the results of this study. It was also one of the first to use the qPCR method that TItanovo uses instead of the more expensive and complicated Southern blot method.
As expected, the strongest correlation with telomere length discovered was age – the telomere correlation was P<0.001. When other dietary factors were considered independently, they had a low or no correlation with telomere length. However, when the factors were combined into the Mediterranean score, the results were impressive: a P<0.001 correlation was discovered between telomere length and the Mediterranean diet. When recalculated into years of life, this represents a possible 4.5 additional years of life if strictly following the Mediterranean diet when compared to a low or average level of following the Mediterranean diet.
The results lead us to an important conclusion: more comprehensive interventions on lifestyle have a stronger impact on telomere length. One intervention alone will likely have little to no effect on telomeres.
This conclusion is supported in the publication Diet, nutrition and telomere length (2011) where taking vitamins independently had little meaningful impact on telomere length, with the exception of vitamins C and E. However, multivitamins had a considerable effect, moreso than even just taking vitamin C and E. This strongly supports the notion that a complex strategy is more likely to affect telomeres than simply making one small dietary intervention.
Image is courtesy of corresponding authors.(Paul, 2011)
All forms of calorie restriction, including natural restriction from a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle, are also shown to increase telomere length (Vera et al., 2013). However, this result is considered controversial, as it seems to compete with the prevailing opinion that calorie-restriction alone is not a universal telomere elongation strategy, and that the effectiveness of calorie restriction depends on ones’ genotype.
Crous-Bou, M., Fung, T.T., Prescott, J., Julin, B., Du, M., Sun, Q., Rexrode, K.M., Hu, F.B., and Vivo, I.D. (2014). Mediterranean diet and telomere length in Nurses’ Health Study: population based cohort study. BMJ 349, g6674.
Mattison, J.A., Roth, G.S., Beasley, T.M., Tilmont, E.M., Handy, A.M., Herbert, R.L., Longo, D.L., Allison, D.B., Young, J.E., Bryant, M., et al. (2012). Impact of caloric restriction on health and survival in rhesus monkeys from the NIA study. Nature 489, 318–321.
Paul, L. (2011). Diet, nutrition and telomere length. J. Nutr. Biochem. 22, 895–901.
Vera, E., Bernardes de Jesus, B., Foronda, M., Flores, J.M., and Blasco, M.A. (2013). Telomerase Reverse Transcriptase Synergizes with Calorie Restriction to Increase Health Span and Extend Mouse Longevity. PLoS ONE 8, e53760.