Telomeres and Healthy Aging | IV Vitamins | IV drip | Fairfax, Va 22306 | 703-844-0184

Shortening of telomeres results in the side effects of aging – the breakdown of tissues. So reversing telomere shortening or preventing it, should, in theory , be life-prolonging and healthful. Below is a Longevity Mix of Nutraceuticals that each have evidence for telomerase activation:

What are Telomeres:  LINK to tutorials

Aging With Dignity

Fortified foods, beverages, supplements and creams aim to help people look and feel better as they age.

 

Telo-nutritioneering:

Longevity Mix:

Silymarin: 200 Mg 2x a day

N- Acetyl Cysteine : 1800 -2400 mg/day

Resveratrol: 10-20 mg daily

Green Tea (EGCG): 50 mg a day

Ginkgo Biloba: 40-80 mg cycled every 4 weeks

Acetyl L- Carnitine  1000 mg  aday

Vitamin C 540 mg a day minimum

L-Arginine : 500 mg-1000 mg a day

Alpha tocopherol: 400 IU a day

Vitamin D3 : 2000 IU daily

Folic Acid : 2-5 mg daily

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Milk Thistle for helping out with telomeres: American Indians used this as a health inducing tonic:

Silymarin boosts Telomerase activity by 300% and reduces the number of senescent cells. It also increases the number of endothelial progenitor cells by 64%:

Silymarin Inhibits Endothelial Progenitor Cells’ Senescence and Protects Against the Antiproliferative Activity of Rapamycin: Preliminary Study 
Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology. 56(6):610-618, DEC 2010  DOI: 10.1097/FJC.0b013e3181f78dc

 

 

N- Acetyl Cysteine

A building block for the master anti-oxidant, Glutathione. It delays decay of endothelial cells by hTERT activation.

Chronic treatment with N-acetyl-cystein delays cellular senescence in endothelial cells isolated from a subgroup of atherosclerotic patients Mech Ageing Dev. 2008 May; 129(5): 261–270.

Chronic treatment with N-acetyl-cysteine delays cellular senescence in endothelial cells isolated from a subgroup of atherosclerotic patients

Gamma Tocotrienol

One of the four lesser known forms of  Vitamin E may modulate the length of telomeres by telomerase and exposure to it for just 24 hours seemed to lengthen telomeres by 16%.This has been seen in multiple studies.

Resveratrol

Increases telomerase activity and prevents endothelial cells from dying.
Resveratrol reduces endothelial progenitor cells senescence through augmentation of telomerase activity by Akt-dependent mechanisms

Br J Pharmacol. 2008 Oct; 155(3): 387–394.
Resveratrol also suppresses cellular proliferation and induces DNA repair, and facilitates HDL production

Resveratrol reduces endothelial progenitor cells senescence through augmentation of telomerase activity by Akt-dependent mechanisms.

EGCG:

ECGC Has a powerful effect on telomeres, lengthening them by .46 Kilobases longer in green tea drinkers – the equivalent of 5 years of life lengthening.

Ginkgo Biloba:

Ginkgo Biloba activates Telomerase in endothelial cells of blood vessels

Ginkgo Biloba Extract Reduces Endothelial Progenitor-Cell Senescence Through Augmentation of Telomerase Activity  Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology. 49(2):111-115, FEB 2007

Acetyl L carnitine combined with choline can affect the symptoms of Alzheimers and causes nerge growth factor to be produced.

 

Vitamin C:

also increases telomerase activity as well and slows down the shortening of telomeres by 64%

Vitamin C treatment promotes mesenchymal stem cell sheet formation and tissue regeneration by elevating telomerase activity.

L- Arginine and alpha tocopherol also turn on Telomerase as well.

 

Cycloastraganol Supplement for Telomere protection: 

Cycloastraganol is a telomerase activator of TAT2 from the Astragalus root. Click on the link above:

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Article Below from Bullet Proof:

  • Telomeres are caps of DNA at the ends of chromosomes that protect your cells from aging.
  • These caps naturally wear down over time until they get so short that they can no longer protect the cell. Short telomeres are linked to chronic and degenerative diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s, and early death.
  • Scientists view telomere length as a reliable marker of your biological age (as opposed to your age by years.)
  • Telomeres naturally shorten over time, but you can protect and lengthen your telomeres with meditation, exercise, and a diet full of healthy fats and vegetables.

Take a moment and picture the plastic tips on shoelaces — they protect the ends and stop the string from fraying. That’s one way scientists describe telomeres — caps of DNA at the ends of chromosomes that protect your cells from aging.

These caps naturally wear down over time. Each time a cell copies itself, telomeres shorten. They get shorter and shorter until they can no longer protect the cell. The cell then either stops growing or it dies in a process called apoptosis — or cellular suicide. Short telomeres are linked to a weakened immune system, chronic and degenerative diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s, and early death. Find out how you can hack your telomeres to live longer and better.

Telomeres and aging

The Key to Living Longer and Better Protect Your Telomeres_Telomeres and aging

The rate at which telomeres shorten could determine the pace at which you age. Scientists view telomere length as a reliable marker of your biological age (as opposed to your age by years.)[1]Telomeres naturally shorten over time, but certain habits, like smoking, excessive stress, not exercising, and a diet full of processed foods can accelerate the process. People with shorter telomeres than the average length for their age group have a higher risk for serious disease and early death.[2] Shorter-than-average telomeres have been linked to heart disease and heart failure,[3][4] cancer,[5][6] diabetes,[7] and osteoporosis.[8]

In one study, people over 60 with shorter telomeres had a three times higher risk of dying from heart disease, and an eight times higher risk of dying from an infectious disease. [9]

During a recent Bulletproof Radio (iTunes) podcast episode, Elissa Epel, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and author of “The Telomere Effect,” says, “When we measure telomeres in midlife, they’re a pretty reliable predictor of who gets disease early and, in some studies, who dies early, so they do matter when we’re older.”

Telomeres and stress

While age and genes have the biggest influence on telomere length, stress follows closely behind.[10] In one study from George Mason University, women with kids had telomeres 4.2 percent shorter, or the equivalent of 11 years, than women without children. According to the researchers, the stress of child-rearing may be to blame.

Related: Moms Age 11 Years Faster, Says New Study. Here’s How to Stop It

In another study, also of women, those with the highest levels of perceived stress had telomeres shorter by the equivalent of one decade than women who said they experienced less stress.[11]

That’s an important finding — how you view your stress has as much bearing on telomere length as environmental stress. Learning to manage and lower your stress is a powerful way to preserve your telomeres and put the brakes on aging.

The type of stress also matters, and determines how big the impact is on telomere length. While adult stress can shorten telomeres,[12] people who experience multiple traumas like abuse and neglect as children have higher odds of developing shorter telomeres as adults.[13] Exposing the body to many years of high arousal accelerates cellular aging, more than single stressful events. “Childhood events may embed epigenetically and alter gene expression almost permanently,” write researchers in one study.

How you can lengthen and protect your telomeres

The good news is that you have a lot of control over the wear-and-tear of your telomeres. And even if you have shorter telomeres, it’s not a done deal — you can lengthen them with certain habits and behaviors. Here’s how to do it:

Meditate

The Key to Living Longer and Better Protect Your Telomeres_Meditate

Since how you perceive your stress counts, finding ways to feel more in control is key. Meditation gives you that time and space to sort out your thoughts, so you can recognize which worries are valid, and which are not. This changes your perception and experience of stress. A 2009 paper suggests that mindfulness meditation lowers stress, which in turn could preserve telomeres.[14] Another study found that women who practiced loving kindness meditation (a technique that encourages compassion) had longer telomeres than women who didn’t.[15] Carve out time each day (put it in the calendar if you have to) to quieten your thoughts and focus on your breath. Even a quick five-minute meditation in the middle of your workday can calm your nervous system and do wonders for your sense of wellbeing.

Related: 50 Shades of Zen: How to Meditate For More Results In Less Time

Limit exposure to air pollution

The Key to Living Longer and Better Protect Your Telomeres_Limit exposure to air pollution

If you live near a highway or have a long commute, this one could be hard. But air pollution does affect telomere length. One study found that traffic officers had shorter telomeres than people who worked in an office.[16] Consider investing in a high-efficiency particulate (HEPA) air filter, and sleep with your windows closed if you live near a busy road.

Get active

The Key to Living Longer and Better Protect Your Telomeres_get active

Yet another benefit of exercise — it reduces oxidative stress and boosts proteins that help stabilize telomeres. [17] In one study, men and women who didn’t exercise much or at all were biologically older by 10 years than those who were very active. But you don’t need to run a marathon or put in hours each day at the gym. People who do moderate aerobic exercise just 45 minutes, three times a week, have telomeres similar in length to marathon runners.[18]

“There is such a marginal benefit of being a marathoner versus being a moderately fit person who’s doing endurance jogging,” says Epel. “There are other more important things to do than to exercise for hours a day.”

But take note office workers: “It’s not just how active you are,” says Epel, “it’s really how much sitting you do, so people like me are in trouble. I exercise every day, but I sit on my butt for hours the rest of the time.” Get up regularly from your desk — at least once every hour — and walk around or do some stretching. A standing desk, although pricey, is a great long-term investment in your health.

Maintain a healthy weight

The Key to Living Longer and Better Protect Your Telomeres_Maintain a healthy weight

Obesity causes telomeres to wear down quicker. One study found that the loss of telomeres in obese people was equivalent to 9 years of life.[19] One way to keep your weight steady is to practice intermittent fasting — when you cycle in and out of periods of eating and not eating. Intermittent fasting not only boosts weight loss, it makes cells more resilient and promotes cellular repair. It also lowers oxidative stress — when free radicals overpower the antioxidants in the body. Since oxidative stress shortens telomeres, reducing this type of stress will help preserve them.[20]

RelatedThe Ultimate Guide to Intermittent Fasting for Beginners

Boost your NAD+ levels

Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (known as NAD+) is a coenzyme, found in every cell, that rewires your metabolism and activates sirtuins — proteins that help maintain the length of your telomeres.[21] Since NAD+ levels drop as you get older, consider taking supplements of this coenzyme or practice intermittent fasting, which increases NAD+ supplies.

Load up on healthy fats and veggies

The Key to Living Longer and Better Protect Your Telomeres_Load up on healthy fats and veggies_NEW

One study found that telomeres didn’t shorten as quickly in people with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids than people with low levels of the fats.[22] Another study found that women with shorter telomeres and lower levels of vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta carotene had an increased risk of developing breast cancer.[23] Eat plenty of lightly cooked leafy greens and broccoli, berries, wild salmon, and other fatty fish.

“Eat your damn vegetables,” says Michael Fossel, MD, PhD, author of “The Telomerase Revolution”, in a Bulletproof Radio (iTunes) podcast. “It’s really not rocket science when it comes to maintaining telomeres.” But he emphasizes that moderation is key: “You need a good diet, but if what you do is end up stressing yourself worrying about it the whole time, you’ll just undercut yourself. Chill out, relax, go meditate.”

Give TA-65 supplements a try

Made from a Chinese root, this supplement claims to activate telomerase — the enzyme that rebuilds telomeres. A 2009 study found that TA-65 increased telomere length and lessened DNA damage in mice. But before you rush out to buy it, it doesn’t come cheap — expect to shell out $600 for a three-month supply. A slightly cheaper option is cycloastragenol — believed to be the active ingredient of TA-65. One study found that, like TA-65, it activated telomerase in mice.[24]

Test your telomeres at home

Ketosis and the Ketogenic Diet Explained_How to know you’re in ketosis

You can now order telomeres testing kits in the mail. With the prick of a finger or swab of a cheek, companies like TeloYears and Titanova tell you how your telomeres compare in length to others your age. Whether the information is accurate is another story — people have received conflicting results when trying different tests.[25] [26]

Most scientists agree that while knowing your telomere length could nudge you to adopt healthier habits, there are still too many unknowns. For instance, it’s not clear whether telomeres are the same length throughout all tissues and cells of the body.[27] So a test that analyses telomeres in saliva may be offering just a small snapshot of the bigger picture.

Tests typically cost around $100 a pop — money perhaps better spent on a fresh farmer’s market haul or new walking shoes.

 

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Telomere Testing: Science or Snake Oil?

 

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It seems lately that any biometric can inspire a test pitched to consumers, using jargony buzzwords and promises of health, wellness, and longevity. Measuring the length of telomeres, the short DNA sequences at the tips of chromosomes that whittle down as we age, is one such pseudoscience-based offering.

“The DNA test to help you stay younger longer,” and “control how well you’re aging based on your telomere length,” blares one website. Send in a swab and receive “your current telomere length reported as the age of your cells in TeloYears, and the option to work with an expert to develop a personalized lifestyle improvement plan based on telomere science.”

Not surprisingly, Telomere Support supplements are available to help achieve the promised stoppage of time. These include the usual suspects of vitamins and anti-oxidants, plus black tea extract and pygeum extract (from the African cherry tree, used to treat an enlarged prostate). Only $59 a month!

Another company offers to tell the consumer “physiological/biological age” via the mean length of the telomeres, with a deal to test four times a year for $299, to track changes.

I’m not buying any of it.

Yes, diseases can result from abnormal telomere maintenance, but that’s got nothing to do with what the companies are pitching. Two new articles in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings report on 17 patients with short telomere syndromes, while a third article, a commentary, tackles the commercialization of the science, “Telomeres in the Clinic, Not on TV.”

Telomere Science

Telomeres aren’t anything new. I wrote about the intriguing history of their discovery in 1995. And Elizabeth Blackburn, Carol Greider, and Jack Szostak received the Nobel Prize for their discovery and description in 2009.

The 194 telomeres in a human cell – 4 telomeres for each of the 46 chromosomes – add up to thousands of DNA bases. Each telomere consists of repeats of the DNA sequence TTAGGG, a 6-letter word shared with all other vertebrates.

At each cell division (mitosis), 50 to 150 of the endmost bases drop away from each telomere, slowly shaving the chromosomes. Mitosis halts, as if adhering to a cellular clock, after about 50 divisions. This abrupt cessation of division is the famous-in-biology-circles Hayflick limit, named for Leonard Hayflick, who reported on the telomere clock back in 1961. Take a cell that’s divided 20 times, freeze it for a few years, thaw it, and it’ll divide about 30 more times. The reawakened cell may carry on but never divide again, or die.

A thyroid tumor. Long telomeres may mean cancer, not longevity!

A few types of cells keep their telomeres long – eggs, sperm, and cancer cells. To do so they deploy an enzyme, telomerase, that provides a wonderful example of chemistry becoming biology.

Telomerase consists of protein and RNA, and the RNA part is the sequence AAUCCC, the complement of the DNA telomere unit TTAGGG. The protein is reverse transcriptase, which copies the RNA into DNA, generating new material for the chromosome tips, like adding beads to a necklace.

But most cells don’t produce telomerase and their telomeres shrink in sync to the cell division clock. Telomere shortening is also exquisitely sensitive to environmental stimuli, hastening with chronic stress, obesity, too little exercise, high blood sugar, inflammation, and exposure to toxins or radiation. It makes me wonder if all the political squabbling on social media can shrink telomeres.

Short Telomere Syndromes

In most cell types, a suite of proteins oversees telomere length,  preventing the chromosomes from glomming together like sticky spaghetti or becoming so frayed that they trigger DNA repair that can lead to cell death.

A mutation in any of the 13 genes that encodes one of these proteins causes a “short telomere syndrome.” But not all the genes are known. Of the 17 patients described in the Mayo Clinic journal, only six had mutations in genes known to affect telomere assembly, length and stability.

The danger of stunted telomeres is that whittling down the chromosomes too fast “exhausts” the burgeoning stem cell populations that make growth, development, and healing possible. That leaves multiple organ systems with too few cells. Most sensitive are the cell types that normally divide often, such as those of bone marrow and linings (epithelium).

The first short telomere syndromes described were extremely rare single-gene conditions, such as dyskeratosis congenita, a form of bone marrow failure that affects one in a million children. More recently, attention has turned to common conditions that short telomeres might explain. These include deficiency of T and B cells (impairing immunity); digestive problems such as enterocolitis, celiac disease, and a blocked esophagus; lung conditions including early-onset emphysema and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF); a form of liver cirrhosis; osteoporosis; abnormal cartilage development, prematurely gray hair; and predisposition to cancers of the blood and epithelia. (The cancers arise in the context of short rather than long telomeres from the compromised immunity.)

The short-telomere syndromes are termed “accelerated aging syndromes,” but the genetics differs from that of the better-known progeria, which causes children to appear elderly. A clinical trial at The Inherited Bone Marrow Failure Precision Genomics Clinic at Mayo is testing how physicians can identify families with short telomere syndromes based on the various associated conditions and going gray before age 30.

The symptoms of the short telomere syndromes also come sooner with each generation, a phenomenon called genetic anticipation. This happens because a person who inherits such a syndrome is born with a double whammy: the product of a sperm and egg that already had stunted telomeres, and the inherited mutation that further speeds the shrinkage.

Measuring Telomeres: Beyond “Size Matters”

The techniques used to measure telomeres are like a trip back in time in biotech. They include variations on the PCR theme, the 1980s-era restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) mapping, optical techniques, and the gold standard, flow-FISH (flow cytometry coupled with fluorescence in situhybridization). Flow-FISH is used clinically to identify patients with short telomere syndromes who could benefit from bone marrow transplantation.

It’s complicated. Each chromosome type has a range of normal sizes for its telomeres, and the overall distribution of lengths for the 23 pairs of chromosomes varies by cell type. (For clinical applications, telomere length is typically assessed in white blood cells.) The tally of chromosome tips that are too short may be more meaningful than overall or average length. For example, just 5 short telomeres out of the 194 in skin fibroblasts can trigger DNA repair leading to cell death. And so the distribution may be more important than the actual overall extent of telomere DNA.

Still, the metric to assess telomere length in an individual is the percentile of the normal range. A person with a short telomere syndrome has telomeres as long as 1% of the healthy population for the same age range.

“Molecular Palm Reading”

The ability to analyze telomere lengths and distribution is helping with treatment for people with short telomere syndromes, but that same quantification has made telomeres irresistible targets for direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing of tests and products.

That’s why Mary Armanios, MD, from the Telomere Center in the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine wrote “Telomeres in the Clinic, Not on TV” to accompany the case report and review article in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings. “These products present an oversimplified view of telomere length health: ‘short telomeres are bad’ equitable with aging, while ‘long telomeres are good’ and signify youthfulness,” she warns. Youthfulness of cancer cells, perhaps.

Limitations of measuring telomere lengths are many. The techniques used vary greatly and have poor reproducibility. Plus, DTC tests tend to report only the median or mean value for a patient’s submitted cells, which may only be meaningful for the lower extreme, and doesn’t include the distribution. Dr. Armanios compares this averaging shortcut to the “absurdity of reporting any value that is below the median for a white blood cell count as abnormal.”

In short, telomere lengths are too variable within a population, too variable within an individual, and too sensitive to environmental factors, to offer any reliable information for common disease risk. It also doesn’t appear to be individualized enough for another potential application, forensics.

Say a headless corpse washes ashore. Could measuring the telomeres in cells from a bit of soft tissue clinging to a bone reveal the age, or even age range, of the victim? To test this possibility, researchers in Sweden measured the telomeres in 100 blood donors of a range of ages. Age predictions were off by up to 22 years. People of the same age had widely different telomere lengths. Even the lengths in cheek and blood cells from the same person disagreed. Given the sensitivity of telomere length to environmental factors, these disagreements aren’t surprising.

Even if telomere length could be correlated to specific traits, tendencies, or even future diseases, as the science stands now, that information is useless because longitudinal studies haven’t yet revealed normal ranges over time.

Deja Vu All Over Again

The telomere companies remind me of other “lifestyle” DTC genetic testing companies that offer clueless clients tests of genome-wide gene variants that are meant for basic research into gene discovery, not assessing health in an individual.

These companies pitch me on a regular basis, probably seeking coverage here, and it typically takes awhile for the PR folk to dig far enough to find a researcher who ultimately confirms my query that yes, the test is just a GWAS – genome-wide association study – which can provide only glimmers of tiny risk associations. This company, for example, uses GWAS data to dispense “diet, fitness, and supplement” advice.

Here’s a nice review of how some of these offerings are thinly-veiled attempts to pair useless genetic information with just selling stuff, at hiked prices. The examples are recent. My personal favorite unmasking of DTC genetic testing trickery, though, is from 2006.

In NUTRIGENETIC TESTING:Tests Purchased from Four Web Sites Mislead Consumers, a researcher from the U.S. Government Accountability Office sent two DNA samples – one from a 9-month-old girl and the other from a 48-year-old man – along with 14 made-up lifestyle/dietary profiles of “fictitious consumers,” twelve for the female, two for the male, to four nutrigenetics testing companies. The profiles included age, weight, exercise and smoking habits, coffee consumption, and diet, but nothing about health. The tests probed “a limited number of genes” that affected such things as bone and cholesterol metabolism, mineral absorption, clearing toxins, and “protective systems,” which I assume meant immunity.

The fake people representing the two DNA samples received the same elevated risks: common conditions like osteoporosis, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. But good news! For a fee as high as $1,200, a package of personalized supplements – vitamins and antioxidants, just like the telomere companies – could counter the supposed dire genetic fate, although these aren’t single-gene conditions. The accompanying expert advice was generic and obvious: exercise, stop smoking, eat more veggies. Interestingly, a review of “The Telomere Effect,” co-authored by one of the telomere Nobelists, concludes “Minimize stress, take regular exercise, get enough sleep, don’t smoke and don’t eat too much processed food – this book isn’t going to give you much health advice you haven’t already heard.”

So there’s plenty of precedent for the fallacy of telomere testing to predict anything about future health or longevity. In her editorial Dr. Armanios concludes that such testing “risks causing unnecessary anxiety, with some believing they are ‘biologically aged’ and further leading them to pursue untested products” and warrants “caution against testing (telomeres) in commercial settings.”

I agree with her assessment that telomere length testing is “molecular palm reading,” a modern version of snake oil.

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Healthcare Access and Stress: The Truth is in the Telomeres

This article was co-written by Krystle Salvati of the Macaulay Honors College at John Jay College (CUNY) based on a paper she wrote in one of my courses.]

At the very ends of our chromosomes, there are structures called telomeres. Telomeres are made of a specific DNA sequence – TTAGGG – repeated thousands of times. As we begin our lives, the chromosomes in most of the cells in our body have telomeres with about 2,500 copies of the repeat sequence. This highly repetitive DNA serves as a “cap” on the tips of our chromosomes.

Screen Shot 2018-06-09 at 2.16.58 PM

Because of the constraints of how DNA is copied, telomeres get a tiny bit shorter each time a chromosome is copied in preparation for cell division. Exceptions are the telomeres in certain skin cells and those of our GI tract, as well as hematopoietic stem cells (blood cell progenitors), gamete precursors (sperm and egg), and cells that have been “immortalized” such as cancer cells and most laboratory-cultured cell lines. Because those cells  are meant to divide forever, they have ways to maintain their telomeres forever.

For most other cells, the gradual shortening of the telomeres places an upper limit on the number of possible cell divisions. As telomeres shorten to a critical length, cells undergo a process called replicative senescence, where they stop dividing and mostly cease to function. As such, telomeres are aggressively studied in the fields of cancer biology and aging.

Screen Shot 2018-06-09 at 2.25.27 PM

The telomeres of white blood cells (leukocytes) are also commonly studied as markers of physiological stress. Although telomeres always shorten with age, they prematurely shorten in a certain kind of cell when that cell is “busier” than usual. This is because each round of cell division eats away at the chromosome ends. Leukocytes are the cells of the immune system, so the leukocytes of someone who is affected by chronic stress, infection, or injury have shorter than expected telomeres due to the overactivity of leukocytes associated with the stress response.

With a simple blood draw, researchers can isolate circulating leukocytes and then measure the length of their telomeres. The leukocyte telomere length (LTL) corresponds roughly to age, augmented by the degree of physiological stress that the person has undergone. Those with chronic illnesses, especially autoimmune diseases, frequent infections, and other inflammatory conditions, display telomeres that are shorter than their age would predict. As such, LTL is often used as a rough marker of general health.

Screen Shot 2018-06-09 at 2.34.02 PM

Recently, Flannagan and colleagues published a fascinating article in the American Journal of Human Biology examining leukocyte telomere length (LTLs) in several Mesoamerican populations and attempting to correlate them to various measures of health and chronic stress. Their study focused on families living in six Mesoamerican countries: Belize, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Panama. At least two dozen families were examined in each country with researchers drawing blood to obtain the LTL measurements as well as taking other biometrics such as height and weight, for calculation of Body Mass Index (BMI), as well as age, education, family size, and other social factors.

Unsurprisingly, LTL correlated well with age in all Mesoamerican sub-populations and shortened telomeres were also observed in those with a high BMI and those reporting chronic illnesses. Across all six countries, mothers’ telomere length correlated well with that of their children (corrected for age), unsurprising given that telomeres are chromosomally inherited. For men, telomere length was shorter if they did not have “food security.”

In addition, the researchers found something quite unexpected: LTL correlated surprisingly well with nationality. In fact, nationality was an even better predictor of LTL than family relationships, when correcting for age and chronic illness. This correlation between nationality and LTL was observed in both adults and children. Flannagan and colleagues speculate that the aforementioned correlations could be caused by “lifestyle characteristics or ecological exposures.” For example, LTL could be affected by “stress associated with political and social unrest, national health and social welfare policies, or by differences in standards of living between countries.”

Screen Shot 2018-06-09 at 2.47.27 PM

Another variable that may connect nationality and telomere length is healthcare access itself. In Flannagan, we see that the countries in Mesoamerica with the longest average telomeres among women are, in order, Mexico, Panama, and Costa Rica. Of the six countries examined, these have the greatest access to healthcare among the general population. Indeed, the healthcare systems in these countries are among the best in Latin America at providing universal access to their citizens. In fact, these three are all in the top five of International Living’s ranking of the world’s best healthcare systems and in all three cases, the ubiquity of healthcare access is specifically credited. In contrast, the shortest telomeres, by far, were observed in Belize and Honduras, two countries that struggle to provide access to basic healthcare for many of their citizens.

It is tempting to interpret this correlation as merely coincidental with economic development. Indeed, other studies have found that shorter telomeres correlate with poverty (here and here) and per-country wealth inequality (here and here). Researchers in Scotland have found that telomere length is associated specifically with household income. However, two countries in the Flannagan data set, Belize and Nicaragua, buck this trend. Belize is wealthier than most countries in Mesoamerica, but with lower access to healthcare, while Nicaragua strives to provide universal health care despite being one of the poorest countries in the region. These exceptions prove the rule: it appears that, healthcare access per se, not economic development, is the factor that best correlates with telomere lengths among Mesoamerican countries.

Furthermore, it has recently been revealed that Costa Rica has considerably lower mortality and a longer life expectancy than the United States, despite the latter having seven times higher per capita personal income and spending many times more on healthcare. Although Rosero-Bixby and Dow have linked this health disparity to far greater wealth inequality in the United States, a simpler though not unrelated factor, and not mutually exclusive, may be that Costa Rica has universal healthcare coverage and the United States does not.

That the correlation between nationality and LTL observed by Flannagan is independent of other health indicators argues that it is not just healthcare treatments that are beneficial to health, but rather, healthcare access itself is beneficial to general health. The chronic psychological stress of healthcare insecurity may lead to chronic physiological stress and illness. Indeed, connections between telomere length and both psychiatric illness and life stress have already been found.

Our telomeres are telling us that lack of healthcare access is a considerable health burden in and of itself.

-Krystle Salvati and Nathan H. Lents

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1. Associations of TERC Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms with Human
Leukocyte Telomere Length and the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.
Al Khaldi R, Mojiminiyi O, AlMulla F, Abdella N.
PLoS One. 2015 Dec 31;10(12):e0145721. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0145721.
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PMID: 26720590

2. Prenatal undernutrition and leukocyte telomere length in late adulthood: the
Dutch famine birth cohort study
de Rooij SR, van Pelt AM, Ozanne SE, Korver CM, van Daalen SK, Painter RC,
Schwab M, Viegas MH, Roseboom TJ.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Sep;102(3):655-60. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.112326. Epub
2015 Jul 15.
PMID: 26178721

3. Mediterranean diet and leukocyte telomere length in a multi-ethnic elderly
population
Gu Y, Honig LS, Schupf N, Lee JH, Luchsinger JA, Stern Y, Scarmeas N.
Age (Dordr). 2015;37(2):24. doi: 10.1007/s11357-015-9758-0. Epub 2015 Mar
8.
PMID: 25750063

4. Soda and cell aging: associations between sugar-sweetened beverage
consumption and leukocyte telomere length in healthy adults from the National
Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys
Leung CW, Laraia BA, Needham BL, Rehkopf DH, Adler NE, Lin J, Blackburn EH,
Epel ES.
Am J Public Health. 2014 Dec;104(12):2425-31. doi:
10.2105/AJPH.2014.302151. Epub 2014 Oct 16.
PMID: 25322305

5. Association between higher plasma lutein, zeaxanthin, and vitamin C
concentrations and longer telomere length: results of the Austrian Stroke
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The global population of people aged over 65 is expected to triple by 2050, growing from 516 million in 2009 to 1.53 billion, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Meanwhile, the market for anti-aging products is vibrant, as consumers strive to feel healthy and attractive.

According to a new research report from the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), Harleysville, PA, titled “Trends In Healthy Aging: A Multi-Generation Perspective,” consumers are interested in new approaches to managing their health. When it comes to actually trying new products though, Generations X and Y (aged 18-47) are more inclined to do so. Respectively, 58% and 63% of consumers in these demographics said they’d be willing to take new products.

Beauty supplements brought in $3.5 billion globally last year, according to market research firm Euromonitor, and sales of food and beverages containing beauty ingredients are expected to exceed $1.1 billion by 2016.

We all know the signs of aging—wrinkles, gray hair, sagging skin, creaking joints, a general slowing down and less spring in our steps. But what can people do about these issues and how is science evolving to slow the natural aging process?

Revere The Telomere
A new area of research on aging involves telomeres. Humans have 46 chromosomes, and within each DNA strand are about 20,000 sequences, or genes, for determining our characteristics. Telomeres are regions of nucleotide sequences located at the end of chromosomes that protect from deterioration or fusion with neighboring chromosomes. Every time a cell divides, we lose a telomere. Once every cell in the body has lost most of its telomeres, we die.

Draco Natural Products, San Jose, CA, has developed botanical extracts that contain phytocompounds that can activate telomerase. “When your body turns telomerase on, you start to make new telomeres of your DNA,” said Brien Quirk, director of R&D. So, in essence, you are prolonging your life.

Scientists have discovered different phytocompounds that activate telomerase. These include cycloastragenol and HDTIC from the Chinese herb astragalus. Another herb, cynomorium, has been found to increase telomere length; and hu zhang contains resveratrol, which activates telomerase.

Studies have shown telomerase-increasing effects of specific phytocompounds. For example, puerarin, found in the plant kudzu has been shown to stimulate telomerase and to delay the aging of the cells, Mr. Quirk said. Draco’s kudzu extract contains 40% isoflavones, of which a significant proportion is puerarin.

People with either high levels of vitamin D or omega 3 (or both) have also been shown to have high levels of telomeres.
However, there is disagreement about telomeres. “Many scientists still think it’s unproven as to how much of an anti-aging effect there could be,” Mr. Quirk said.

It may be, he explained, that some phytocompounds work on specific cells in the body but not all, so it may be necessary to use as many different telomerase activators as possible for an overall anti-aging effect.

Draco is also looking into another area that’s gaining recognition these days: stem cells. Stem cells are vital for the body’s ability to repair or regenerate damaged or worn out tissues—for example cells damaged by diabetes or heart disease. They are the cells from which all other specialized cells in our body are made, said Mr. Quirk.

“If you go through illness or have an injury, your body manufactures stem cells, which make new cells be produced,” he said. However, scientists have discovered that common Chinese herbs such as dong quai and rehmannia may help produce more stem cells in bone marrow.

Forces of Flavonoids
Much simpler than telomeres and stem cells, fruits and vegetables packed with flavonoids have been at the forefront of health, and fighting the war with aging.

Originally known as vitamin P, flavonoids are antioxidants found in plants. They are the superheroes of the health world, helping counter the damage free radicals invlict on cells. Free radicals’ effect on cells is akin to that of water rusting metal. It’s believed that when these cells are damaged, our bodies age—inside and out.

The effects of some flavonoids have only been recently discovered, and Draco is using them in powdered phytoconcentrates, which manufacturers are incorporating into dietary supplements, foods and beverages.

Yumberry contains a flavonoid called myricetin, which has anti-glycation effects. Glycation, explained Mr. Quirk, occurs when the sugar in skin reacts with proteins in the body and forms glycation products, which are damaged proteins. “Your body mounts an attack against them leading to inflammation, and their destruction by white blood cells, which leads to aging,” he said. (For more on advanced glycation end-products click here.)

Blue honeysuckle berry has five times higher phenolic value and five times the antioxidant value of blueberries, according to Draco. It is also a rich source of anti-glycation flavonoids.

Jackfruit contains phenolic, anti-inflammatory compounds that are potent antioxidants. They could also have an anti-aging effect if used to offset the inflammatory effect caused by high blood sugar.

A multi-component formula of these phytoconcentrates would be ideal, Mr. Quirk said. “Addressing a combination of pathways would make the most sense to decrease the damage and aging effect on cells.”

Half a century ago, Horphag Research developed Pycnogenol from the bark of the French maritime pine tree. Containing procyanidins, flavonoids and organic acids, Pycnogenol provides four basic properties: it’s a potent antioxidant; it acts as a natural anti-inflammatory; it helps generate collagen; and it aids in the production of endothelial nitric oxide, which helps to dilate blood vessels.


On the U.S. market for 25 years, Pycnogenol is used in more than 700 consumer products—mostly in capsules, tablets, beauty creams and functional beverages—and as both a standalone supplement and an ingredient. It acts as a sponge for nefarious free radicals before they cause damage by oxidative stress.

Horphag Research conducted tests on women’s skin before they used oral Pycnogenol supplements and 12 weeks later. Researchers found the women had more hyaluronic acid (which binds large quantities of water in the skin and in other tissues), improved elasticity, greater hydration, fewer wrinkles and smoother skin.

“It increased the presence in our skin of the enzyme that increases hyaluronic acid, which is what is injected into some people’s lips or wrinkles,” said Frank Schonlau, Horphag’s scientific director. “The body produces that acid itself but we produce less as we grow older because the cells are no longer as active as when we were young.”

Olives—More Than Just Oil
Hydroxytyrosol (3, 4-dihydroxyphenylethanol; DOPET) is not a flavonoid but a phenylethanoid that comes from the olive leaf and olive oil. This phytochemical contains some of the most potent antioxidants discovered to date, according to Certified Nutraceuticals—three times higher than CoQ10 and 15 times higher than green tea.

Hydroxytyrosol helps fight aging in a number of ways, but mostly it contains lubricants for skin, joints and collagen cells.
Understanding of hydroxytyrosol is relatively recent. While we’ve known for years that a Mediterranean diet bestows health benefits on consumers, it’s now recognized that the minor compounds in extra virgin olive oil—one of which is hydroxytyrosol—offer health benefits.

Certified Nutraceuticals’ Olea25 ingredient contains 25% pure hydroxytyrosol, and is good for heart health, liver disease, blood pressure, prostate health and cholesterol, according to the company, which recommends 100 mg per day.
“Most people who are buying Olea25 are 40-plus, but it’s for anyone over the age of 25, which is when we start producing free radicals,” said Ahmad Alkayali, president and CEO of the Aliso Viejo, CA-based company. “We are also doing research to see what it does for telomeres—if it does slow the aging process down, we could maybe add 10, 15, 20 years to our life spans.”

Probiotic Power
Hydroxytyrosol may not have made many headlines yet, but probiotics captured the attention of mainstream media in the U.S. when Danone launched its Activia brand yogurt in 2005.

Despite the hype, understanding the complexities of bacteria and gastrointestinal health among consumers is still in the relatively early stages.

“People are understanding that we age from the inside out and that the gut is very important,” said Dr. David Keller, vice president of scientific operations for Ganeden Biotech, Mayfield Heights, OH. “And seniors are a big focus because it’s the largest growing population in the U.S. And as you age it goes from a healthier to a less optimal state as the balance of your gut flora changes.”

Much of the research shows that many causes of aging could be due to changes in the immune system (most of which is located in the gut), the digestive system and the effects of inflammation, Dr. Keller continued.

GanedenBC30 (Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086) is a lactic-acid producing probiotic bacteria, which can be incorporated into virtually any food or beverage. In fact, it has been added to more than 80 products, including Bigelow Lemon Ginger Herb Plus Probiotic Tea, Red Mango Frozen Yogurt and Udi’s Ancient Grain Granola Bars With Probiotics.

While probiotics are of great benefit to seniors, Ganeden hopes that consumers start to realize their benefits sooner, and begin taking them preventatively. “You’re not able to start taking GanedenBC30 later on [in life] as a magic fountain of youth,” Dr. Keller explained.

Probiotics are everywhere these days. How is Ganeden’s strain different?

“Our strain is a spore-forming bacteria that allows it to survive manufacturing processes and harsh environments [like the stomach] that no non-spore former will,” Dr. Keller said.

The Red Wine Diet
The other darling of the media in recent years has been resveratrol—a compound found in red wine, which makes it a more palatable nutraceutical for some consumers.

Some research has shown resveratrol to be beneficial for cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and for reducing inflammation and blood clots.

Reverse-vine from Certified Nutraceuticals is a blend of red wine, red grapes, grape cluster stems and grapevines, which the company said is more efficacious than resveratrol alone.

This product is mostly sold in a 500 mg tablet, and the company’s Mr. Alkayali said that its efficacy has been proven in both lab and mice studies. It has also been shown to delay the aging process of vegetables, “so who’s to say it’s not going to help us, too?”

Putting It All Together
DSM Nutritional Products, Parsippany, NJ, is taking many ingredients that are on-trend and incorporating them into a single product. The company’s powdered blend Age Well includes collagen, lutein, resveratrol, CoQ10 and antioxidants (in the form of carotenoids) to promote healthy skin structure and skin cell metabolism.

“These nutrients work together to support skin health and anti-aging benefits through several complementary mechanisms,” said Dr. Deshanie Rai, DSM’s senior scientific leader. “[They] scavenge free radicals produced [that] cause metabolic and structural damage to the skin cells and may also result in premature aging. So these antioxidant nutrients help to stabilize these free radicals and keep them in balance.”

The key is that the ingredients work together and each has discrete roles. “Collagen helps support the integrity of the skin layer,” Dr. Rai added, “while carotenoids help support the anti-aging benefit through being antioxidants and helping heal the damage by free radicals from sun exposure, the aging process or environmental aspects.”

Consumers are becoming more willing to try new anti-aging formulas. According to market research firm SPINS, Schaumberg, IL, collagen supplements are increasingly popular. Data for the 52-week period ending April 2013 revealed that sales of collagen supplements were up 39% in the natural channel, and 56% at mass merchandisers.

The fountain of youth may prove elusive for at least a few generations yet to come but all of these products have a market that’s waiting for them.

Younger consumers (in their 30s and 40s) are looking to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, sun damage and collagen loss and are thinking preventatively toward the future. Older Americans (in the 50- and 60-year-old age groups) are hoping to halt—or reverse—the aging they see and feel.

Perhaps by 2050 consumers will be eating, drinking and moisturizing with anti-aging products and not giving it a second thought.

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