I just received my Thought for Today Newsletter which is filled with very interesting and useful information from Oprah. Today’s issue has a story about slowing the aging of cells that caught my eye.

Elizabeth Blackburn

Elizabeth H. Blackburn, PhD, won a 2009 Nobel Prize for her research on a tiny bit of cellular machinery that turns out to be a hugely important clue to human health: telomeres, the protective caps on the ends of our threadlike chromosomes (“similar to the plastic tips on shoelaces”) that keep our genetic material safe from damage. Every time a cell divides, as our immune and skin cells regularly do, the telomeres tend to get a little shorter—which makes them an excellent indicator of cellular aging. When telomeres get too short, cells stop working properly. Blackburn and one of her colleagues discovered an enzyme that replenishes and repairs frayed telomeres, helping us stay healthier as we get older.

This enzyme, called telomerase, slows the rate at which telomeres degrade, and research indicates that healthy people with longer telomeres have less risk of developing the common illnesses of aging—like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, which are three big killers today. But telomerase also has the potential to fuel the growth of any cancer cells already lurking in the body. So you don’t want to just dial up a person’s levels. Instead, discover the lifestyle factors that boost telomerase naturally.

A diet high in omega-3 fatty acids is one of the clearest examples. Exercise is another key; enough daily exercise to make you break a sweat. Exercise mitigates the effects of stress—and stress, we know, shortens telomeres. In fact, early studies indicate that stress reduction techniques like meditation help people maintain the length of their telomeres.

Scientists are on the verge of discovering many of telomerase’s secrets that could uncover valuable information to combat aging, fight cancer, and even improve the quality of medical treatment in other areas such as skin grafts for burn victims, bone marrow transplants, and heart disease.

It doesn’t seem very difficult to add some omega-3 to the diet. I love to eat walnuts on my Greek yogurt and I have started adding a tablespoon of ground flax seed to it also. The walnuts go on top of a banana and a handful of blueberries and half a peach when they are in season that I put on there too. I also drizzle on some honey.

When the weather gets cooler I put my toppings on steel-cut oatmeal instead of yogurt and add a dollop of heavy cream. This is so easy and delicious it makes breakfast my favorite meal of the day all year round.

Find foods rich in omega-3 here: http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=84

There are web sites on the internet that offer products that supposedly contain telomerase and that supposedly slow the signs of aging. I don’t know anything about them though.

Professor Elizabeth Helen Blackburn, AC, FRS, FRSN is an Australian-born American biological researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, who studies the telomere.

Thought for Today Newsletter is filled with very interesting and useful information. Just go to oprah.com and sign up for it.

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