Aging is associated with many undesired developments. Fragile skin, vision change, unimpressive reaction times. Less noticeable, at least to others who may think you are becoming a little “slow”, are changes in hearing.
One of the things that biologists examine when assessing biological aging is telomere length. Telomeres function as protective caps at the ends of our DNA. Telomeres wear down a little with each cell division. Older people, and older animals, will have shorter telomeres than the young. However, the rate of telomere shortening, is not set in stone. Oxidative stress can wear on telomeres as they do on other cell components. Inflammation also appears to increase biological age as it also seems to speed shortening of telomeres. Some researchers have found that long-term exercisers have longer telomeres than their sedentary peers. Others have shown that a diet high in anti-oxidants (or high in fruits and vegetables) is also protective. Accelerated telomere wearing has been associated with:
- Osteoporosis (who’d have thought?)
- Increased risk of bladder cancers
- Heart disease
Risk factors for faster telomere aging include:
- Psychological stress/depression
- Sedentary lifestyle
- High Body Mass Index (BMI)
- Diet low in whole grains and cereal
- Drinking soda
Protective factors against telomere aging.
- Mediterranean diet
- Long-term exercise pattern
- Fruit and vegetable intake
- Grain and cereal intake
- More things we can write about later. This is a hot research topic.
Don’t give grains a completely short stick: grains may preserve telomeres and reduce cellular aging.
Cereals have gotten the short stick lately as two popular diets, low-carb and paleo diets, are anti-grain. However, grains have been part of the human diet for millennia. Certainly long enough for humans to have made genetic adaptations. Grains contain anti-oxidants, minerals, soluble and non-soluble fiber. All of these are beneficial to health. Diets relatively high in grains are associated with longer telomeres (less cellular aging). Diets rich in grains (cereal fibers) may help preserve telomere length . . . possibly by providing anti-oxidants and minerals . . . it’s too early to tell. As for now, you may actually be better off including grains in your meals. If, like me, you have continued to eat them despite all the pressure to stop from Paleo friends who are convinced you are slowly killing yourself with bran flakes. . . carry on. You’re doing fine. Read more about telomeres and telomere aging here.
Lee JY, Jun NR, Yoon D, Shin C, & Baik I (2015). Association between dietary patterns in the remote past and telomere length. European journal of clinical nutrition PMID: 25872911
Cassidy A, De Vivo I, Liu Y, Han J, Prescott J, Hunter DJ, & Rimm EB (2010). Associations between diet, lifestyle factors, and telomere length in women. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 91 (5), 1273-80 PMID: 20219960