(NaturalNews) Telomeres (tiny bits of DNA that influence longevity and health) have been causing quite a stir among researchers lately --- and for good reason. The length of these protective caps on the end of chromosomes determine how quickly cells age, and how prone we are to having a stroke or developing cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity, vascular dementia, diabetes and osteoporosis. Essentially, the shorter your telomeres, the shorter your lifespan. And yet, we don't have to be at the mercy of our genetics. Have a look at the following tips which help foster strong telomeres -- as well as resistance to disease and aging.
Want to increase telomere length? Adopt these three habits
Diet - A pilot study at the University of California in San Francisco found that a diet high in plant-based protein, fruits and vegetables, and low in refined carbohydrates and fat (10 percent of total caloric intake), to be the best model for lengthening telomeres and preventing disease. Although Lawrence Wilson, M.D. firmly believes that anything which boosts glutathione in the body is helpful too -- such as meat, eggs, cooked green vegetables and other sulfur-containing amino acid foods. When glutathione is present, oxidation is minimized. This in turn reduces damage to telomeres, thereby preserving, and perhaps encouraging, length.
Further dietary considerations involve managing inflammation and the subsequent free radicals associated with the condition. The bottom line is that when free radicals are generated during an inflammatory response from a traumatic injury (either physical or emotional), telomeres are compromised. A diet rich in DHA and EPA, along with turmeric, ginger, green tea, resveratrol, zinc, magnesium and folic acid, as well as vitamins B12, C and D, can go a long way in preventing injury to telomeres through antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions.
Vitamin D is especially important according to research involving 2,100 female twins between the ages of 19-79. It was discovered that those with the highest levels of vitamin D also had the longest telomeres, and the lowest levels of the vitamin were associated with the shortest telomeres.
Stress reduction - Another crucial lifestyle habit that keeps telomeres from shrinking is stress management. As noted in the Prevention article "7 Steps To A Longer Life":
"Pioneering research published in 2004 found that telomeres of women under the greatest strain (caring for chronically ill children) were shorter by the equivalent of 10 additional years of aging, compared with those of low-stressed women. More recent studies have suggested that telomeres progressively shorten as job-related stress and burnout crank higher."
But it appears that telomeres can recover from chronic stress when relaxation techniques are employed. One recent study showed that those who were highly stressed from caring for a family member with dementia could boost telomerase activity by 43 percent when a daily 60-minute yoga and meditation practice was adopted.
Exercise - Physical activity also helps to extend telomeres by curbing stress. In fact, research has found that postmenopausal women who experienced a substantial upswing in stress were 15 times more likely to have short telomeres -- that is, unless the the women exercised, in which case the risk disappeared. Telomere benefits kicked in when participants exercised vigorously for at least 14 minutes per day, three days a week.
All in all, further study is needed before researchers fully understand the role telomeres play in longevity and disease prevention. In the meantime, using lifestyle habits to keep telomeres healthy and strong is still a smart move for maintaining robust health.
Sources for this article include:
"Higher serum vitamin D concentrations are associated with longer leukocyte telomere length in women" J Brent Richards, Ana M Valdes, Jeffrey P Gardner, Dimitri Paximadas, Masayuki Kimura, Ayrun Nessa, Xiaobin Lu, Gabriela L Surdulescu, Rami Swaminathan, Tim D Spector, and Abraham Aviv, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Retrieved on April 10, 2014 from: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/86/5/1420.full
About the author: Carolanne believes if we want to see change in the world, we need to be the change. As a nutritionist, natural foods chef and wellness coach, she has encouraged others to embrace a healthy lifestyle of green living for over 13 years. Through her website www.Thrive-Living.net, she looks forward to connecting with other like-minded people who share a similar vision.