Telomere Depression and Aging
If you read the news you may have noticed articles on depression and telomere length. There is no reason to think you are screwed and get more depressed. Or get depressed if you weren’t already. Improving your diet seems to increase telomere length. So does exercise and stress management.
Telomeres protect DNA by capping the ends of chromosomes and preventing them from unraveling or tangling with one another. Telomeres shorten with each cell division. They shorten until they become too short to serve their protective function. At this point the cell will cease to divide and it becomes senescent. Telomere length is a marker of biological age. Shortened telomeres are also associated with inflammation and oxidative stress. Many diseases and maladies of advancing age are associated with short telomeres. Shortened telomeres have been noted in cancers, cardiovascular disease, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Telomere depression: Does depression shorten telomeres?
Most recently, telomere shortening has been found in people suffering from depression. This may be one of the reasons why people who suffer from depression have poorer health and do not live as long as people who have not. There is a lot of interesting research coming out on the biochemistry of depression. Click here for articles on folate deficiency and depression, mthfr variants and depression, and exercise and telomere length.
This is depressing. Is there anything I can do to?
So far research indicates that a healthy diet may protect telomeres. People who follow a Mediteranean Diet with lots of vegetables, olive oil, whole grains, legumes and fruit have longer telomeres than people who follow a diet high in saturated fat, refined grains, sugar, junk food, fried food etc. (Paleo diet followers: there is no research yet on how the paleo diet might protect telomeres. Best guess is that if you include lots of vegetables and use olive oil you will be better off than most.)
Exercise also seems to protect telomeres. Studies show that Masters Athletes have longer telomeres than their sedentary peers. This is good news for Masters Athletes. A study of men with prostate cancer who underwent a lifestyle intervention program to increase fitness, diet, stress management and social support experienced an increase in telomere length five years later. The control group that did not receive lifestyle intervention showed decreased telomere length. Good news if you eat well and take care of yourself. Bad news if you don’t.
Depression is bad for your life. It is a serious disorder with potentially serious repercussions. Get it treated. Eat well, exercise and care for your social relationships. It may protect you from depression and protect your telomeres too.
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Phillips AC, Robertson T, Carroll D, Der G, Shiels PG, McGlynn L, & Benzeval M (2013). Do symptoms of depression predict telomere length? Evidence from the west of Scotland twenty-07 study. Psychosomatic medicine, 75 (3), 288-96 PMID: 23513237
Boccardi V, Esposito A, Rizzo MR, Marfella R, Barbieri M, & Paolisso G (2013). Mediterranean diet, telomere maintenance and health status among elderly. PloS one, 8 (4) PMID: 23646142
Ornish D, Lin J, Chan JM, Epel E, Kemp C, Weidner G, Marlin R, Frenda SJ, Magbanua MJ, Daubenmier J, Estay I, Hills NK, Chainani-Wu N, Carroll PR, & Blackburn EH (2013). Effect of comprehensive lifestyle changes on telomerase activity and telomere length in men with biopsy-proven low-risk prostate cancer: 5-year follow-up of a descriptive pilot study. The lancet oncology, 14 (11), 1112-20 PMID: 24051140
Kim JH, Ko JH, Lee DC, Lim I, & Bang H (2012). Habitual physical exercise has beneficial effects on telomere length in postmenopausal women. Menopause (New York, N.Y.), 19 (10), 1109-15 PMID: 22668817