Telomeres are sections of genetic material at the end of each chromosome whose primary function is to prevent chromosomal “fraying” when a cell replicates. As a cell ages, its telomeres become shorter. Eventually, the telomeres become too short to allow cell replication, which causes the cell to stop dividing and it ultimately dies - a normal biological process.
A simple blood test can be performed that tests for the length of your telomeres. The Patient Telomere Score is calculated based on the patient’s average telomere length in peripheral whole blood cells. This average is then compared to telomere lengths from a population sample in the same age range as the patient to determine the patient’s percentile score.
An inflammatory diet, or one that increases oxidative stress, will shorten telomeres faster. This includes refined carbohydrates, fast foods, processed foods, sodas, artificial sweeteners, trans fats and saturated fats. A healthy diet consisting of a variety of antioxidants will improve oxidative defense and reduce oxidative stress, which will slow down telomere shortening. Consumption of 10 servings of fresh and relatively uncooked fruits and vegetables, mixed fiber, monounsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, wild caught cold water fish, and high quality vegetable proteins will help preserve telomere length. Intermittent Fasting for 12 hours each night at least 4 days per week is recommended.
Ideally, one should achieve a body weight and body composition with low body fat (less than 22 % for women and less than 16 % for men). Decreasing organ visceral fat is very important as well. Regular aerobic and resistance exercise for at least one hour per day, sleeping for at least 8 hours per night, stress reduction, discontinuation of all tobacco products are strongly recommended. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy may decrease the rate of telomere loss as well.
Testing should be done once per year to evaluate the rate and direction of telomere changes and make adjustments in nutrition, nutritional supplements, weight management, exercise and other lifestyle modifications known to influence telomere length.