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Diet, Exercise May Extend Life by Lengthening Telomeres [Video]

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Sep 17, 2013 04:14 AM EDT
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(Photo : REUTERS/Andres Stapff)

A good diet along with exercise and low stress could prolong life by lengthening telomeres- the protective caps of chromosomes, a new study has found.

Telomeres are the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes that protect genetic information. Length of telomere can give an idea about cell aging.

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This isn't the first time researchers have found a link between stress and telomere length. Another recent study had established that people who suffer from anxiety have shorter telomeres. In this study, researchers at UC San Francisco and the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, a non-profit public research institute in Sausalito, Calif., found that better lifestyle management could help lengthen telomeres over time, which in-turn could extend lifespan.

"Our genes, and our telomeres, are not necessarily our fate," said lead author Dean Ornish, MD, UCSF clinical professor of medicine, and founder and president of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute.

"So often people think 'Oh, I have bad genes, there's nothing I can do about it,'" Ornish said in a news release. "But these findings indicate that telomeres may lengthen to the degree that people change how they live. Research indicates that longer telomeres are associated with fewer illnesses and longer life."

For the study, researchers followed 35 men for over five years. The participants had early stage prostate cancer. About ten men in this group were asked to adopt a healthier lifestyle such as eating nutritious food, exercising for 30 minutes a day and taking up meditation to reduce stress levels.

Results showed that men who changed their lifestyle had longer telomere length; about ten percent longer than other men. In contrast, men who didn't adopt healthy behavior had shorter telomeres by the end of the study.

Researchers said that the benefits of exercise and diet aren't restricted to men with prostate cancer, but can be applied to general population.

This study was actually a follow-up investigation of a pilot study conducted in 2008 where the same participants were asked to take up healthy habits. Their telomerase activity was tested after three months. Researchers had then found that exercise and diet increased activity of telomerase- an enzyme associated with repair and lengthening telomeres.

The study is published in the journal The Lancet Oncology.

                                                                      

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