What are telomeres?
Telomeres are an essential part of human cells that affect how our cells age. Telomeres are caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protect our chromosomes, like the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces. Without this coating, shoelaces become increasingly frayed until they can no longer function as shoelaces. Similarly, DNA strands that lose their telomeres, or have very short telomeres, become damaged and affect our health.
What is telomerase?
Telomerase is an enzyme that builds telomeres. Produced by the body, it can slow telomere shortening that occurs as we age. The amount of telomerase in our bodies declines as we get older, so it becomes even more important as we age to provide our cells with the nutrients they require to keep telomerase levels adequate. Suffcient telomerase levels help to maintain telomere length and therefore improve cell aging, allowing cells to live longer and continue to function properly.
Telomeres and disease
Studies have proven that maintenance of telomeres is essential to the health of a cell. Dysfunction in the body’s telomere maintenance process plays an integral role in cancer, certain rare diseases, and the human aging process. In fact, short telomeres have been connected to premature cellular aging and many age related diseases. 2010 Jan;46(2):430-8.
Telomeres and aging
We inherit telomeres from our parents, and it is part of human nature for telomeres to shorten as we age, causing aging in our cells. For this reason, researchers have used telomere length as an indicator of genetic age, and therefore a predictor of longevity. Investigations show that proper diet, exercise, stress management, and social support may result in longer telomeres. This data supports lifestyle interventions as preventative medicine for age-related diseases. Shorter telomeres impact our health in a negative manner because they prevent our cells from reproducing properly, which leads to our tissues degenerating and eventually dying. An interesting study in The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences showed that 100-year-olds in good health