Telomeres are DNA-protein complexes at the ends of chromosomes which protect the DNA. DNA cannot divide without adequate telomere maintenance. The telomeres shorten during cell division. The enzyme, telomerase, works against telomere shortening.
Telomere shortening is an indicator of cell age, coronary heart disease risk, mortality risk, infectious disease, and many different cancers. Telomere shortening is a marker of increased risk of cancer metastases and worse prognosis of some cancers.
If “the telomere maintenance system, which includes telomerase, is fully functioning,” telomeres can remain stable. Telomerase enzyme helps preserve telomere length. Telomerase is found in peripheral-blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). Poorly functioning telomerase maintenance is predictive of high cardiovascular disease risk at any age. Obesity and insulin resistance correlate with shortened telomeres.
The author’s have reported that comprehensive lifestyle changes (“improved nutrition, moderate exercise, stress management techniques, and increased social support”) improve progression of cardiovascular disease and early prostate cancer. The goal of the present study was to show that the same lifestyle changes can alter PBMC telomerase activity after 3 months treatment.
The subjects were men with low-grade prostate cancer who had a prostate specific antigen (PSA) level below 10 ng/mL. They were placed on the comprehensive lifestyle modifications. There was an initial retreat and frequent meetings with staff and phone contacts. The diet was low fat (under 10% of the total calories.) A plant based diet was given with lots of fruits, vegetables, unrefined grains, and legumes. The diet was low in refined carbohydrates.
Aerobic exercise (walking) was stressed. Stress reduction included yoga stretching, breathing, meditation, imagery, and progressive relaxation. The clients had a 1 hour support group weekly. The patients received a daily soy beverage, fish oil (3 g daily,) vitamin E (200 IU daily,) selenium (200 microg daily,) and vitamin C (2 g gaily.)
Throughout the study, telomere activity was tested by measuring telomerase activity in PBMCs. At the end of the study there were substantial improvements in cardiovascular risk factors. There was a reduction of stress. There were no significant alterations of PSA levels. There was an increase in telomerase activity which was significantly associated with a reduction in LDL-cholesterol levels.
CONCLUSION: Lifestyle changes can change your health. After 3 months of comprehensive lifestyle changes, prostate cancer patients had increased telomerase activity, reduced LDL-cholesterol levels, reduced cardiovascular risk factors, and less stress.
NOTE: Dr. Dean Ornish, who worked on this study, is the most famous member of the staff of the UCSF.. He works with the ways that lifestyle changes can alter disease. Dr. Orhish’s program is “Comprehensive Lifestyle Changes.”
A telomere is the end of a chromosome. It repeats DNA patterns and protects the DNA from damage. Shortening of the telomeres is a predictor of disease risk.
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