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Fountain of Youth?

September 16, 2008

Telomerase is an enzyme (indicated by the “-ase” ending) that adds DNA sequences to the three prime end of a DNA strand in the telomere region. Telomeres are condensed DNA material at the end of a DNA strand that provide structure to the DNA strand.

So what is the big deal about telomeres and telomerase you may ask? Why am I geeking out over scientific nonsense on an blog focusing mainly on an eco-friendly lifestyle? Well I am glad you ask (or you clicked on a link or typed in a url to lead yourself away from my blog already).

As we live our lives our cells are continuously replacing themselves and during this replication process, mitosis, DNA sequences usually within the telomere region are lost. Telomerase allows for the replacement of these regions of DNA. As we ag our level of telomerase declines as well as the length of our telomeres, which is part of what causes us to age.

In a study done by scientists and doctors at UCSF and the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Saulsalito, 30 prostate cancer patients were instructed to follow a low-fat diet, exercise moderately, and reduce their stress. Within a mere 3 months levels of telomerase, which was being concentrated on in the prostrate tissues of these patients, rose significantly. While the researchers can only speculate that the increased levels of telomerase are due to the change in lifestyle and are calling for a larger and more strictly controlled research project on this subject, their findings are encouraging for a couple reasons. Low levels of telomerase is often indicative of disease risk and premature death rates in cancer patients, and it is related to the natural aging process.

Dr. Dean Ornish, the director of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute and one of the leading researchers, has long been a proponent of a healthier lifestyle to prevent and even reverse certain diseases including heart disease. The findings of these researchers has been published in the British Lancet Oncology, and the article that I gleamed the information on this research project is titled “Changing diet, exercise found to extend lives” in the San Francisco Chronicle.

I can only hope that these types of research trials will encourage people to adopt a healthier lifestyle, even if it is for the vain goal of preventing themselves from aging. This in turn would help the earth since people wouldn’t be consuming tons of unnecessary calories and wasting food that ends up in landfills along with the packaging for all of those food products and maybe even go outside and exercise instead of sitting in front of a screen of some sort or behind a steering wheel for most of their day. I would hope that it would be common sense to people that eating a well balanced diet, exercising, and reducing stress (the one thing I often fail at) is the best way to stay healthy, then again we are in an obesity epidemic in the United States.

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