Telomeres: Less Isn’t More

The following is an article, which was kindly contributed by my friend and sports nutrition mentor – Dr. Cory Holly. Cory is not only a brain on the science of sports nutrition, he is also built like a Hercules statue and one of the nicest guys around. At age 55, he just won the Natural Mr. Hawaii contest (pic below).

Cory and his super charming wife Tracy run CHI – the Cory Holly Institute – Online School of Holistic Sports Nutrition. Cory and Tracy can be found all over the beautiful spots of the world but spend quite some time on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu, every year.

In this article, Dr. Cory Holly explains about what actually causes aging. Enjoy!

In simple terms telomere length is a genetic factor related to our general health. In fact telomere length is now recognized as a biomarker for predicting the timeline of our individual life expectancy. Shorter telomeres equal less life.

The word “telomere” is derived from the Greek nouns telos meaning ‘end’ and merοs meaning ‘part.’ Telomere regions function to prevent the degradation of genes near the ends of our 46 chromosomes. A chromosome is a single piece of coiled DNA and contains many genes. The entire genome has about 25,000.

A telomere is a special region of repetitive nucleotide sequences or base pairs at each end of a chromosome. Telomeres consist of genes that protect the end of our chromosomes from deterioration or fusion with neighboring chromosomes.

Here’s another way to think of telomeres. They’re a collection of ring-like “caps” that function to protect the end of a DNA strand from being frayed, unraveled or worn out. For this reason telemeres have been compared in action with the plastic tips on shoelaces. Shoelace tips prevent the shoelace string from becoming undone.

Every cell (except red blood cells) contains a nucleus with genes and chromosomes. This is where we can find our personal book of life written in digital language as a genetic code. Chromosomes are made up of DNA molecules that are millions of bases long coiled up like a slinky.

When a cell divides the genetic material inside that cell needs to be copied by a process called DNA replication. During this process enzymes that replicate a strand of DNA are unable to continue replicating all the way to the end. This causes the loss of some DNA.

At birth we have about 10,000 telomeric base pairs but as we burn in the fire of time and due to continuous cell division, our telomeric sequences slowly disappear. At 5000 bases we begin to show evidence of old age. We lose functional lean mass, forget things, need cheaters to read, experience  fatigue more frequently and don’t recover from exercise as quickly as we once did.

Losing telomeres is not cool. Unlike homeopathy, less is definitely not more. When telomeres shorten we are headed in the wrong direction. When cells divide telomeres shorten and bad things happen when telomeres get shorter.

Each time a cell divides, an average person loses 30 to 200 base pairs from the ends of that cell’s telomeres. So we’re talking about a slow gradual decline in telomere length that takes time to occur. Like a lifetime.

So what is the maximum life span of our species? 122 years. That’s how long Jeanne Louise Calment of France lived and she’s someone we know lived that long for sure. Unlike Methuselah (969) or Li Ching Yuen (256), her age was verified by experts who examined her birth records as evidence.

So if our maximum life span is well over a century potentially, why is the estimate of life expectancy in Canada for someone born in 2013 only 81.57? What happens to us? Why do so many of us die prematurely? What happened to those missing 40 years of love and joy? Do they just evaporate? No. Our cells divide, they get damaged, telomeres get shorter faster and nasty things happen.

There are plenty of other factors in life that create our diminishing return. Things like infant mortality, accidents, epidemics, plagues and wars. Fortunately for most of us born in a country with law and order, good sanitation and access to decent whole food, those factors aren’t nearly as relative compared to living in Chad for example, which ranks lowest in the world for life expectancy at 49.07.

Be thankful if you live or were born in a land of prosperity and freedom. Like a place where clean water flows abundantly and crimes like rape and murder are relatively low. Such good fortune provides us with ideal conditions that predispose us from birth to the likelihood of living longer with better health. Hence the higher life expectancy estimates.

Other factors that help prolong life include living in a warm temperate climate isolated from the mob, walking 5-10km per day, speaking your mind, eating clean natural food and taking no prescription medication.

But in spite of such privilege, many of us ruin ourselves by eating the worst diet imaginable and physically moving less in one day than a three-toed sloth or garden variety slug. An important distinction must also be made between length and quality of life. Many of us will be kept alive far too long by the last ditch rescue efforts of modern medicine. Why does the Calvary always show up after the battle has been fought?

Enter Telomerase: Another “New” Miracle Pill?

Telomerase is the body’s natural enzyme that promotes telomere repair. It’s active in stem cells, germ cells, hair follicles and most cancer cells, but its expression is low or absent in non-reproductive cells, meaning most of our 100 trillion cells.

Scientists want to know why telomerase is repressed in most cells because if they can find a way to stimulate telomerase activity in somatic cells without screwing everything else up, as they have apparently done by genetically modifying our food, it’s theoretically possible to keep our cells alive for a very long time.

Here’s what telomerase does in reproductive cells. It adds bases to the ends of the telomeres as they shorten which keeps the ends of our chromosomes stable. Ultimately the rate of telomeric addition is equal to any telomeric subtraction so the net effect is immortal cells that never die. Imagine if we could harness or control this effect.

Do you want to live forever? Ask Dorian Gray. Or better yet watch the movie. His answer will surprise you.

Cells with genes that do not express telomerase gradually lose telomeric sequences as a result of incomplete replication. As telomeres shorten, cells eventually reach their replicative or “Hayflick limit” and progress into senescence or old age. Cells can divide only about 50 to 70 times, after which due to telomere loss, they become unstable and degenerate.

But here’s a key question that remains unanswered. Is telomere shortening the cause of disease, decay and death, or is telomeric loss simply an effect of cellular damage like age spots on the skin, caused by how we live and a complex array of environmental factors such as stress, oxidation, glycation, radiation, gravity and entropy?

Shorter telomeres are recognized as a cause of poor health and accelerated aging. Telomere length to some degree does reflect how well we’re taking care of ourselves, but even if we do a superlative job of self-regulation, our telomeres will still shorten.

Telomeric DNA is reduced more quickly when oxidative stress and glycation is constant and no willful action is taken to buffer, decrease or manage that stress. Glycation is a technical term for a kind of fusion reaction that occurs between proteins and sugars, especially fructose. Consuming lots of sucrose and fructose accelerates telomere loss.

Glycation causes lots of damage and tends to increase over time with age. It’s a haphazard process that impairs the function of living cells. Smoking, excess alcohol consumption and excess body fat all shorten telomeres faster compared to controls. Nature isn’t prejudice. Once we cross a certain biological line reality demands more of our telomeres as a toll.

Fact: Telomere loss occurs less rapidly as a result of intelligent stress management, meditation, fresh air, clean water, regular physical exercise and optimum nutrition. Are we surprised?

 


The Cory Holly Institute is an online school of holistic sports nutrition, health and fitness. Our certification career courses teach students how to live well in the real world. Details at CoryHolly.com

Middle Aged – and liking it!

After 4 decades and a half, I have become “middle aged” this month – nothing that came to a surprise. In fact, I saw it coming for quite some time. Yet, to the contrary of most, I’m liking it!

I have always believed that the best years for a man start in the forties. It is when a man has reached maturity emotionally, mentally and physically. We have been there…and there. And we have done that…a lot of it. We know our way round. We have had successes. We have had failures. We have loved. We have been inexplicably happy. And we have lost. We have been incredibly sad. We have seen the light and the darkness. We have been scared of our wits. We wanted to run away, yet, we prevailed. We were knocked down to our knees…and it hurt, damn it, but we stood up again and gave it another go.

All of this has made us who we are now. And none of this would I ever like to miss. So, now, I am a middle aged man, but that does not prevent me from thoroughly enjoying myself.

You see, whatever I do has a meaning. And if it is only the meaning I give it. Whatever I do is in view of longevity, of my being full of energy, fully functional, physically, emotionally and mentally healthy and fit.

I choose my diet with this in mind. I choose my training with this in mind. I choose my mental and emotional input with this in mind. Mind you, I am not infallible, far from it. Yet, my intention is firm and right on. I am committed.

The reason for this is that I really enjoy my ride on this planet in this time. And I am intent on enjoying it as long as I can. My life is demanding, very much so. I am a single dad with a 6 year old boy, who is not quite sure yet whether he wants to become a Blue Whale or Spiderman. Besides this major assignment, I also run a fairly large sized recruiting firm, workout 4-5 times a week and have a heap of interests.

Stress is my greatest challenge. When my firm was in the start-up phase, there were many times, when I woke up in the middle of the night and started thinking about all the things I needed to do to get the operation going. This would go on until the alarm clock rang…Dealing with stress and its negative impact on our health will be another article down the road.

This article is about being middle aged and making the right choices, so that you are middle aged and liking it. So what are the things you have to do in order to stay (or get) healthy, strong and energetic (besides looking good)?

Here is the list:

1) Drink Water – lots of it!

I drink water by ½ L. I also drink lots of unsweetened Green Tea. But then I live in a hot climate.

2) Eat well every day!

Avoid extremes such as no carbs, zero fat, 600g of protein per day etc. It is all about balance. When it comes to food intake, nothing in excess is every beneficial. A good “diet” to start off with is the Zone Diet. You can build upon it or customize to your own needs.

3) Take supplements!

Modern living takes it out of us. Food quality sucks (most of the time). Stress and pollution attack us constantly. I recommend multi-vitamins, minerals, Vitamin C, Fish oil and others.

4) Workout 3-6 times a week!

This is no option. Use it or lose it. The choices for exercise are plentiful. Equipment is largely unnecessary but can be great fun.

The exercise program you need comprises

(1) low intensity, steady cardio for health (yes, yes, the current trend is HIIT and others, this fashion will pass, low steady cardio such as swimming, hiking, walking, easy jogging will prevail);

(2) medium to high intensity resistance training for your bones, connective tissue, muscles and most of all for your hormones! The resistance training can be done with weights, tubes, bands, bodyweight, kettlebells etc.

(3) stretching for warm up (dynamic stretching), for cool down (static stretching), for flexibility and pain relief.

Other exercise that improves sense of balance, coordination, speed, accuracy can be added.

By the way, if your workout regimen’s purpose is weight control, then you set yourself up for failure…

5) Have sex – lots of it!

A delicious experience of human existence – treat yourself to lots of it. Say no more 😉

6) Sleep and rest!

Very much depending on individual needs, yet, everybody knows when they are well rested, awake and alert – aim for this sensation.

7) Work and be of service to others!

Life has little meaning, if it only is all about us. We derive great satisfaction and pleasure from giving to others. Treat yourself to this feeling every day.

8) Study something – study lots!

Having been an unsuccessful student in my youth, I discovered the pleasure of learning late. However, now I would not want to miss studying and learning something new every day. Isn’t it a great thing to know that you will be smarter tomorrow than you are today?

9) Read, meditate, do deep breathing!

I call it “Soul Time”. It is connecting with your inner self, the core of your being, getting into your heart space, knowing who you really are. Books, most often of the spiritual kind, can take me there (in my heart space). Deep Breathing can calm my mind. Meditating may work, although I am a mere beginner.

10) Enjoy leisure time, unwind, rejuvenate!

Play! Enjoy! Have fun!

11) Others

There is always more. I don’t even pretend to know all there is to know…

 

thomas ehle, 45 y

thomas ehle

This is it! Interested readers may have many questions, now, fire away!