This is post #103 on the site (about aging, genes, nutrition and prevention), and if you came through another domain name, welcome!
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You might have heard of telomeres and aging. Telomeres are the specialized ends of your DNA strands that help regulate cell divisions (telomeres are often compared to the caps on shoe laces that prevent fraying).
Each time one of your trillions of cells divides (mitosis), the DNA and the genetic code in the cell nucleus divides to make a copy. That complex process also causes the telomeres to shorten a little each time. Think of how your bank balance shrinks as you spend money, a similar reality. And when the telomeres reach their practical limit, the cells can’t reproduce any more.
When that happens, the cells become biologically old (senescent), leading to an arrest of cellular division and eventual death (although the cell may survive for a while). Once cells become senescent, they often trigger an immune response with inflammation, which will damage nearby cells. That may not sound significant but keep this in mind: You replace about a billion cells every hour and you have about 100 trillion cells! All those potentially degraded cells can wreak havoc on your body and immune systems.
Many scientists believe that telomeres play a significant role in aging and cell death because the length (and number of cell possible divisions) is preset for most cells. And when the telomeres get shorter from each copy, the risk of DNA errors and mutations rises, which can lead to cancer and other diseases. Research shows that average telomere shortening is about 9% per each decade but like other genes, that number is not set in stone, as you will see below.
Did you know? If you unwound the tightly packed spirals of DNA in your cells, it would reach about 2 meters or about 6′ in length! This from a cell that’s impossible to see without a microscope.
Important note: This post is a simplified consolidation of the 50-plus source links below. Please dive into those links to explore the incredible complexity and wonder of genes and lifestyle, and how those areas contribute to health and longevity.
Telomerase keeps cells going longer
Telomerese is an enzyme that allows some cell types to maintain their telomeres for a longer time, sometimes indefinitely. It usually works on specific cells like stem cells (specialized cells that can make many types of tissue in the body), germ cells, sperm and egg cells. Telomerese is not always present in cells and in the case of cancer, telomerese contributes to those cells dividing and growing uncontrollably, leading to tumor growth. In that case, telomerese helps drive the disease process so more telomerese is not always better!
Lifestyle can help or hurt telomeres
You may wonder if there things you can do to keep your telomeres long and healthy (along with your genes). The answer is Yes! And it turns out that those healthy lifestyle choices are the same ones I’ve recommended for years.
Research into epigenetics (how environment and lifestyle affects your genes) has shown that indeed, lifestyle influences many genes and how they function. For example, great nutrition with good micro-nutrient intake, activity and exercise, stress management and quality sleep can help to activate your health genes and turn off (silence) disease genes. Many health experts now say about 80% of your health status is due to your lifestyle choices, not your inherited genes!
Did you know? Many people who live to their 80s and beyond have gene defects but those genes remain inactive, often from a healthy lifestyle, thus avoiding most chronic disease. There is no doubt that a healthy lifestyle works all the way down to the cellular level, helping your cell divisions and telomeres function at their best!
Things to avoid
Here are some key things to avoid because they tend to harm genes and telomere length, resulting in worse overall health:
- Processed and junk foods (full of additives, preservatives, and chemicals that aren’t food)
- Glycation from high sugar intake/glucose levels (degrades proteins, causes wrinkles, bad connective tissue and generates free radicals)
- Fried foods (acrylamides from high temperatures cause genetic mutations)
- Low vitamin D (a hormonal regulator, requires a blood test to check level)
- Chemical exposure
- Inactivity, lack of exercise
- High stress levels
- Poor sleep quality
- Excess weight (triggers inflammation and genetic changes)
As you look at the above list, you will probably see many nutrition and lifestyle habits that Americans follow (especially the Standard American Diet/SAD and the Standard American Sedentary Lifestyle/SAS). Those habits take a toll every day and erode your health all the way down to the genetic level! So that type of lifestyle harms genes and shortens telomeres (links below have more details on this issue).
Those lifestyle habits increase oxidative stress, inflammation and speed aging, along with the development of chronic diseases (heart disease, cancer, etc.), further damaging to your genes! Yes, it’s a downward spiral that will eventually cause DNA mutations, disease and lost years.
Did you know? Many young people in their 20s and 30s are developing hypertension, heart disease, pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes and cancer, especially skin cancer! So those bad lifestyle habits are taking a toll earlier than ever. And for anyone who eats and lives an unhealthy lifestyle, you will pay a long-term price (you’re not as invincible as you might think). And the longer you do those things that damage your cells and genes, the shorter and less healthy your life will be.
Things to do
Now here are some critical things you should do to keep your genes and telomeres healthy:
- Get lots of great, whole-food nutrition (quality proteins, veggies, whole fruits, nuts, seeds, fiber, etc.)
- Include adequate vitamins, minerals, antioxidants (polyphenols, catechins, etc.)
- Manage stress/yoga/meditate
- Exercise/activity 5 times/week (especially after age 30-40)
- Get good quality sleep (yes, it’s critical)
- Optimize vitamin D levels by getting your 25-hydroxy vitamin D checked
- Keep systemic inflammation low (1 or below on a hsCRP test)
- Maintain a healthy weight (extra pounds increase inflammation, disrupt hormones)
- Consider green tea, fish oil (lowers inflammation), SAMe, trans-resveratrol and NAD+ to support cellular and gene health and energy (more details below)
Research shows that methylation, a process where methyl groups help to activate genes, is required for both healthy telomeres and gene function (activating health genes and suppressing disease genes, etc.). Gene methylation and histones are the basis of epigenetics mentioned earlier. And remember, genes regulate everything in your body (organs, tissues, immune function, weight, digestion, energy, brain and mood, wrinkles and aging, all of it)!
As always, normal methylation requires good nutrition, especially adequate B vitamins, quality proteins, nuts and seeds, choline from eggs, etc. A supplement like SAMe may also improve methylation. As always, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants work together with food and lifestyle so I don’t recommend just taking a few vitamins or supplements to prevent aging or treat problems! You need the right foundation first, with nutrition and other lifestyle choices like those outlined above.
And although lots of research involves methylation and cancer development, that’s not a reflection of methylation dangers, but a reflection of the unhealthy lifestyle choices listed above. It also reflects how money flows to disease research. After all, billions are made off human suffering in medicine, often leaving more basic health and prevention research to languish.
Healthy methylation is needed for your genes to function properly, affecting repair, neurotransmitter production, detox, healthy immune function, disease suppression, etc. It doesn’t lead to cancer or diseases unless you make unhealthy lifestyle choices (remember, about 80% of chronic disease is lifestyle driven, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer).
As for overall anti-aging, research indicates that telomeres are important but only part of the aging puzzle. Other key areas (as mentioned above) include glycation (damaged proteins from too much sugar and refined-carb intake), too low micro-nutrient/antioxidant intake (degrades cells and DNA, shortens telomeres), chronic, systemic inflammation (you won’t always feel it but most adults have it), high stress and an unhealthy lifestyle, all of which speed up aging and drive mutations and disease, along with shorter telomeres!
So the process tends to come full circle: an unhealthy lifestyle increases genetic damage and those damaged genes increase inflammation and damage more genes and cells, harming health and longevity even more!
Telomeres sirtuins and more
Although telomeres have received lots of coverage for their contribution to aging and disease, research shows that sirtuins are also important factors in aging and gene activation. Sirtuins are a group of 7 proteins (and enzymes) which help to switch genes on or off, helping to regulate critical functions like aging, glucose and fat metabolism, inflammation, stress response, brain function and disease development.
The 7 sirtuins (Silent Information Regulator proteins) are often referred to as SIRT numbers 1-7 with SIRT numbers 3, 4 and 5 involved with cellular mitochondria, the cellular power plants that provide energy. Sirtuins have been studied for their potential to regulate genes, slowing aging and disease development. Also studied is a polyphenol called resveratrol and its ability to activate sirtuins, especially SIRT1. This is important because SIRT1 is thought to help regulate over 30 gene areas.
Research has studied sirtuins and their need for a specialized form of niacin called NAD+, along with their ability to regulate areas like cellular energy, metabolism and aging. Here is a quote from a 2013 study called, Forever young: SIRT3 a shield against mitochondrial meltdown, aging, and neurodegeneration (Note: nucleotide polymorphisms are gene alterations. I broke into 2 paragraphs for easier reading. See link below for full contents):
SIRT1, SIRT2, and SIRT3 have deacetylase activity. Their dependence on NAD(+) directly links their activity to the metabolic status of the cell. High NAD(+) levels convey neuroprotective effects, possibly via activation of sirtuin family members. Mitochondrial sirtuin 3 (SIRT3) has received much attention for its role in metabolism and aging.
Specific small nucleotide polymorphisms in SIRT3 are linked to increased human lifespan. . . SIRT3 deacetylates and activates mitochondrial enzymes involved in fatty acid ß-oxidation, amino acid metabolism, the electron transport chain, and antioxidant defenses. As a result, the mitochondrial energy metabolism increases. Mitochondrial deficits associated with aging and neurodegeneration might therefore be slowed or even prevented by SIRT3 activation.
Another new area of research is how SIRT1 and NAD+ interact with HIF-1 alpha (short for Hypoxia-Inducible Factor-1 alpha), a cellular regulator that responds to low oxygen conditions.
One such study found that HIF-1 is activated when NAD+ (that special form of niacin) is deficient. That, in turn impedes SIRT1 from silencing HIF-1, which decreases mitochondrial function.
Here is a 2013 quote from an article called, A Chemical Way to Reverse Aging? From the biology-bytes.com site. The study was done by David Sinclair, the Harvard scientist who has also researched resveratrol and SIRT1 for several years (Note: quote divided into 2 paragraphs for easier reading, see link below for full content):
One of the key players is NAD+ (which is short for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide). NAD+ is a chemical compound found in all living cells, and for unclear reasons the levels of NAD+ decline as we age. Certain levels of NAD+ are needed to make sure a different important player, SIRT1, can do its job. SIRT1 (also called NAD-dependent deacetylase sirtuin-1) helps make sure that mitochondria communicate well with the rest of the cell by preventing another player from acting.
This meddlesome third player is called HIF-1 (short for hypoxia-inducible factor-1). Usually HIF-1 is only activated when there’s a decrease in oxygen (or, interestingly, in some cancers). However, as cells age and the levels of NAD+ decrease, SIRT1 can no longer prevent HIF-1 from becoming active, and the activated HIF-1 goes around disrupting the mitochondria-cell communication pathways.
Here is a quote from a study called, Elevated microRNA-34a in obesity reduces NAD+ levels and SIRT1 activity by directly targeting NAMPT. It’s from the bionity.com site, which makes a connection going the other direction, looking at how obesity disrupts SIRT1 gene function (Note: I broke the quote into 2 paragraphs, see link below for details):
SIRT1 is an NAD+-dependent deacetylase that is implicated in prevention of many age-related diseases including metabolic disorders. As SIRT1 deacetylase activity is dependent on NAD+ levels and the development of compounds that directly activate SIRT1 has been controversial, indirectly activating SIRT1 through enhancing NAD+ bioavailability has received increasing attention.
NAD+ levels are reduced in obesity and the aged, but the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. We recently showed that hepatic microRNA-34a (miR-34a), which is elevated in obesity, directly targets and decreases SIRT1 expression. Here, we further show that miR-34a reduces NAD+ levels and SIRT1 activity by targeting NAMPT, the rate-limiting enzyme for NAD+ biosynthesis.
In case you are confused about the nature of NAMPT and what it does, here is a quote about its importance from a study called, Nicotinamide Phosphoribosyltransferase in Human Diseases (NAMPT for short, see link below for full study content):
Because of NAMPT’s multiple functions in a variety of physiological processes, their dysregulations have been implicated in the pathogenesis of a number of human diseases or conditions such as acute lung injury, aging, atherosclerosis, cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and sepsis.
Remember my comments about full circle outcomes in lifestyle and gene activity earlier and how each affects the other? These studies indicate that indeed, each can lead to an increase in HIF-1 alpha. Excess weight causes genetic changes and in addition, it disrupts hormone balances, increases insulin resistance, inflammation, and further disrupts gene health and activity.
These new studies show significant connections between obesity, metabolic syndrome and genetic changes and disruptions, including energy levels, aging and disease development.
Here is another quote from a 2010 study below called, Role of Nicotinamide in DNA Damage, Mutagenesis, and DNA Repair, covering how NAD+ can help repair DNA damage by supporting PARP-1 function. (Note: a substrate facilitates a reaction. I again broke into 2 paragraphs, see link below for full study, citation numbers removed to avoid confusion):
The role of nicotinamide in DNA repair and maintenance of genomic stability is tightly related to its functions as an NAD+ precursor and a substrate for PARP-1 [Poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase-1]. PARP-1 is a nuclear enzyme which detects DNA damage, binds to DNA single or double strand breaks, and then uses NAD+ as a substrate to form nicotinamide and ADP-ribose.
Subsequent enzymatic reactions lead to the formation of branched ADP-ribose polymers on a nuclear acceptor protein. Poly(ADP-ribosylation) of the acceptor protein has been hypothesized to function in DNA repair by modifying structural proteins proximal to DNA strand breaks, facilitating the opening of the condensed chromatin structure, which is required for the recruitment of DNA repair complexes.
These studies have added new and important insights into aging, disease and epigenetics, (how lifestyle can activate or suppress genes for health or disease), helping us to find the best ways to live a long life, potentially free of most chronic diseases!
And it’s been fascinating and exciting for me as I uncovered these studies and detailed connections, allowing us to deepen our understanding of aging and disease, based on gene activation, replication and silencing, including how to avoid the DNA damage through lifestyle. As a result, I feel confident that these breakthroughs in longevity research allow us to extend life and health today, not 10 or 20 years from now!
And the research does seem to indicate that the supplement NAD+ (also called Coenzyme 1 or Coenzymated B-3) and resveratrol work together to help DNA maintain its integrity and repair capabilities, activating SIRT1 and other sirtuins, along with telomere integrity, mitochondrial energy (ATP) production, and PARP1 activity. That’s important because we have trillions of cells and some of our cells have thousands of mitochondria, our cellular power plants!
Here is a final quote from a 2013 study on SIRT1, PARP-1 and that same coenzyme and activator, NAD+, from an article called, SIRT1/PARP1 crosstalk: connecting DNA damage and metabolism, from genome integrity.com (see link below for full content):
An intricate network regulates the activities of SIRT1 and PARP1 proteins and continues to be uncovered. Both SIRT1 and PARP1 share a common co-factor nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) and several common substrates, including regulators of DNA damage response and circadian rhythms.
As mentioned earlier, I don’t recommend taking individual supplements like resveratrol or NAD+ without creating a foundation of health first, based on great nutrition, sufficient activity and other healthy lifestyle habits. Everyone needs that solid foundation in place before taking a few supplements and expecting significant results. I can help you with a gradual transition from a less healthy lifestyle to a more healthy one. I can also discuss some good supplements to take, depending on your needs, age, gender, health status, etc.
As a special note, I would like to thank all the researchers who’s tireless efforts have helped to uncover many wondrous new discoveries about genes, telomeres, sirtuins, nutrition, lifestyle and aging. You have helped us all understand how to live a better life and we all owe you our gratitude!
If you have a goal of healthy aging and a long life, largely free of health problems and disease, I’m here to help you reach that goal! The truth is that I know many secrets that even your doctor doesn’t know. I can help you support and nourish your genes and telomeres, keeping you as young as possible.
You don’t have to look old or feel old as you age! You can feel great if you choose to! You don’t have to wait! I hope you look over my source links below as well as previous posts and decide how you want to live! My mission is to help clients get the most out of their life, health and prosperity! And I guarantee improvement at affordable rates so you always come out better after just a few, affordable calls. Your destiny awaits!
Questions or comments? Drop me a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are 3 parts of a video series on telomeres and aging:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCCdmGKtxPA (Sinclair videos)
First quote from this site:
Second quote from this site:
Third quote from this site:
Fourth Quote from this site:
Fifth quote is from this site:
Sixth quote from this site:
Studies on fitness, nutrition and genes:
New resveratrol studies on seizure mitigation, memory and performance:
A new study showing a special coffee can help prevent DNA damage:
A new pilot study shows that a popular anti-oxidant supplement can affect over 800 genes and cardiovascular health:
New link between soda/sugar and DNA aging:
Some interesting new research into how shortened telomeres can disrupt normal cellular function, contributing to aging and disease development:
A new BMJ study on the Mediterranean diet resulting in longer telomeres and slower aging:
© 2014 by Steve Carney/End Sickness Now