Nutrition: Cell Health and Telomeres.
You can only be as healthy as your cells. A major marker of cell health is telomere length. Telomeres cap the ends of chromosomes. They protect DNA from deteriorating. They also protect DNA from accidental fusion with other chromosomes. You need the caps. Caps, however, tend to wear out (they get shorter) with repeated cell divisions. Once a telomere suffers enough wear the cell can no longer divide. Other things can wear out telomeres too. Things like oxidative stress and inflammation. Telomere shortening and wear is thought to play a major role in aging. Preserving telomere length may be a way to prolong life. Speeding telomere wear may cause faster aging.
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Short to Medium Chain Saturated Fatty Acids
A diet rich in short to medium chain saturated fatty acids may damage telomeres. A new paper published in the Journal of Nutrition reports on diet, fat intake and telomere length. Subjects were part of the Women’s Health Initiative study. Women who ate a lot of short and medium chain saturated fatty acids had shorter telomeres. Women with the lowest intake of short and medium chain saturated fatty acids had the longest telomeres. Long-chain saturated fats, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats had no effect on telomeres.
Nutrition take away.
A diet high in short to medium chain fatty acids may speed aging. A lot of people in CrossFit follow the Paleo Diet. Or The Paleolithic Diet. The Paleo diet and a lot of its followers advocate consumption of coconut oil. Medium chain fatty acids do have some nice qualities. Medium chain fatty acids have been associated with reduced risk of metabolic syndrome. Medium chain fatty acids are easy to digest. They may reduce appetite and feelings of hunger. And they pack a lot of calories. Having a source of calories is important. The research reported here shows you are probably better off sticking to long chain, and unsaturated fats. Drink olive oil. Eat walnuts. Future research may report something different. Few people, after all, eat lots of coconut oil. And there may have been other factors involved with the women in the Women’s Health Initiative study that might also have caused their telomeres to shorten.
Foods High in Short or Medium Chain Saturated Fatty Acids
- Coconut oil: 66% medium chain saturated fatty acids
- Palm Kernal Oil
- Whole Milk
Song Y, You NC, Song Y, Kang MK, Hou L, Wallace R, Eaton CB, Tinker LF, & Liu S (2013). Intake of Small-to-Medium-Chain Saturated Fatty Acids Is Associated with Peripheral Leukocyte Telomere Length in Postmenopausal Women. The Journal of nutrition PMID: 23616516
Nagao K, & Yanagita T (2010). Medium-chain fatty acids: functional lipids for the prevention and treatment of the metabolic syndrome. Pharmacological research : the official journal of the Italian Pharmacological Society, 61 (3), 208-12 PMID: 19931617