September 23, 2013
Healthy Lifestyle Changes Might Reverse Cell Aging, Study Suggests
Eat whole foods. Exercise. Meditate. Rely on supportive family and friends. All of these things have been linked, whether independently or together, with better health. And now, a new study shows it’s never too late to start reaping the benefits of changing to healthy lifestyle — and that those changes could even reverse cell aging.
The study, published in the journal The Lancet Oncology, shows that healthy lifestyle changes can have an impact on aging and age-related diseases on a cellular level, by increasing the length of telomeres. Telomeres are the “caps” that protect the ends of chromosomes, similar to how shoelaces have plastic caps to stop them from fraying.
Shorter telomeres have been linked in previous research with cell aging and increased risks of age-related diseases like cancer and dementia, as well as premature death.
“We know from earlier studies that eating an unhealthy diet, smoking cigarettes, being under chronic emotional stress, loneliness and depression may shorten telomeres. But this is the first one we can actually increase the length of them,” study researcher Dean Ornish, M.D., told HuffPost. Ornish is the founder and president of the Preventive Medical Research Institute, clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and medical editor at HuffPost. He’s also conducted extensive research throughout his career evaluating the effects of lifestyle changes on coronary heart disease.
For the study, Ornish and colleagues assigned 35 men with low-risk prostate cancer, who were not being treated for their cancers but were undergoing active surveillance, to one of two groups. One group of 10 men was instructed to make lifestyle changes — including eating a plant-based, vegan diet of whole foods, exercising moderately, receiving social support, and practicing stress-management strategies such as mindfulness and yoga — for five years, while the other group of 25 men was not instructed to make any lifestyle changes. All of the study participants’ telomeres were measured at the start of the study.
Researchers followed up with the men after the study period, when they again measured their telomeres. They found that telomere length actually increased among the men who were assigned to undergo the lifestyle intervention, by an average of 10 percent. Meanwhile, telomere length decreased by an average of 3 percent among the men not assigned to a lifestyle intervention.
They also found that the amount telomeres lengthened was linked with the degree to which the men implemented the healthy lifestyle changes, with those making more changes experiencing greater lengthening of their telomeres.
Telomere research is still young, and more research is needed to understand what exactly a 10 percent average increase in telomere length translates to in terms of disease and death risk. But the findings do tell us that “our genes are predisposition, but not our fate,” Ornish said. “To the extent we’re wiling to make changes to diet and lifestyle, we can change things that were once thought to be impossible.”
The tragic event of September 17th at the Washington Navy Yard brings pain and sorry to the families of the innocent victims and to those whose lives they touched. I recently had as a guest on my blogtalkradio show, Victoria Noe who has written a series of books on friends grief. I think this topic is much overlooked. We do grieve our friends and most often it is unrecognized. You can listen to the show here:
Summer has once again left us and as we move into autumn our bodies shift gears to prepare for the colder weather and shorter days. This is the time of year we begin to look for foods to warm us, hearty soups and stews.
Wild Mushroom and Barley Risotto
In this pungent mushroom risotto, we substitute fiber-rich barley for the more traditional arborio rice. Any combination of mushrooms will work; if you use shiitakes, remove the stems from the caps before using. From www.delish.com
- 6 cup(s) vegetable, mushroom, or reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 1 1/2 cup(s) water
- 1 tablespoon(s) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion, minced
- 2 clove(s) garlic, minced
- 3 cup(s) mixed wild mushrooms, coarsely chopped
- 1 1/2 cup(s) pearl barley, rinsed
- 1/2 cup(s) red wine
- 6 cup(s) baby arugula
- 1/3 cup(s) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 teaspoon(s) balsamic vinegar
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- Bring broth and water to a simmer in a large saucepan. Adjust heat to maintain a steady simmer.
- Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent, about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they begin to release their juices, 2 to 3 minutes. Add barley and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add wine and simmer, stirring, until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 1 minute more. Reduce heat to medium.
- Add 1/2 cup hot broth to the barley and cook, stirring, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Continue adding 1/2 cup hot broth at a time and stirring until the liquid has been absorbed after each addition, adjusting the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, until the barley is tender and creamy but still somewhat firm, 35 to 45 minutes. (You might not use all the broth.)
- Stir in arugula and cook, stirring, until it is wilted, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Stir in cheese, butter, and vinegar. Season with pepper.