Diet and Longevity

Can our Lifestyles Slow Down the Clock?

Our bodies are constantly creating new cells through cell division.  Unfortunately, the cells become “old’ and reach a state called senescence where they no longer replicate themselves.

The old cells do not die but linger in the body systems causing damage and inflammation to healthy cells.

But, during cell division, structures called telomeres (stretches of DNA protein) come into play. They are likened to the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces that prevent fraying. The are located at the ends of chromosomes (genes) to protect and keep cells stable. However, every time a cell divides, the telomeres shorten slightly. The length of telomeres and the rate at which they shorten have been linked to aging. An enzyme called telomerase is often referred to as “anti-aging helps maintain the telomeres, helping to keep them long.

Studies at this point have suggested that various nutrients could possibly influence the expression of a particular gene (TERT) that is linked with telomerase activity. These included genistein found in soy and broccoli; EGCG, a polyphenol in green and black tea, sulforophane found in vegetables such as cauliflower, kale, and collard greens. Data from the Nurses Health Study indicated that intake of dietary fiber was linked to longer telomeres in middle-aged and older women. But research is limited at this point and should be further investigated.

An interesting study indicates that telomere length is connected to the amount of soda we consume. Sugar sweetened beverages are thought to be a major contributor of sugar in the U.S. diet.

In 2024, researchers looked at a group of people who regularly consumed 20 ounces or more of soda daily. The study was published in the American Journal of Public Health, reported that the soda drinkers’ telomeres shortened much more quickly than the norm – the equivalent of more than four and a half years in addition to the normal aging that would occur over the course of a year. This is not good news.

The researchers had included only healthy adults with no history of diabetes or cardiovascular disease in their study. The potential connections with metabolic disease are fascinating.

Consider, for instance, that obesity is also associated with reduced telomere length – even for children. The authors of the study of course recommended that further research be done to examine any reasonable associations with dietary factors and telomere length.

  Source: Findlayson, Judith. You Are What Your  Grandparents Ate. Page 228, 2019. 

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