Exercise and Telomeres – Listening to Liz Blackburn

Telomeres, found at the end of our chromosomes, are also known as the “biologic time clocks” that determine the ultimate possible life and health span of everything from a single cell to the entire organism that we call you or me.

Liz Blackburn, the Grand Dame of Telomeres and the 2009 Nobel Laureate, is often quoted to lend authority to the internet based writing of people who’ve decided to say something about telomeres.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Blackburn personally, at least not yet, but most of us are in the field because of her work on telomeres and telomerase. That does not however mean that there is universal agreement amongst us on the various topics and subjects that are front and center in this field.

So it was with great interest that I read a recent blog post on telomeres and exercise that referenced Dr. Blackburn’s comments on telomeres and exercise.

It should come as no surprise that the headline on this was “Exercise Lengthens Telomeres” and that there was considerable mention of a specific exercise program that was “for sale”.  Then there was a link to Dr Blackburn’s comments.

What she did and did not say was most important and I suspect the original blog writer was correct in that most people would not take the time to actually click the link and read the quoted comments.

From the headline alone most people would conclude that exercise does indeed lengthen telomeres and that Liz Blackburn said so!

What Dr. Blackburn said in response to the question, “Does exercise lengthen telomeres?”  was, “I don’t know.”

Now that is a truly honest answer and one you should bank on.  Let me throw my two cents in here. I have been studying this field and reading just about everything there is to read and have a more succinct answer: “I highly doubt it!”

Dr. Blackburn then went on to discuss twin studies where the twins that exercised had longer telomeres than those that did not. It’s important to know that at the very least identical twins have the same genetic material since they come from the same sperm and egg. This removes a lot of variables you would otherwise have no way of accounting for.  It also underlines the role of epigenetics in determining what fate befalls us. So as I have said many times before, we are not slaves to our genes, doomed to repeat our parents life and health spans.

The final comment I saw on this topic by Dr Blackburn was “exercise appears to slow down the loss of telomeres”.

And this is a point I have been trying to make since the publication of our book, The Immortality Edge in 2010. Slowing down telomere loss is good but it is not the same as adding length to your telomeres. One slows down the aging process, the other has been shown in lab animals and human cell lines to reverse it.

Big difference.

Recently an autopsy on a 115 year old Dutch woman who donated her body to science revealed the likely cause of her death by “old age” to be secondary to stem cell exhaustion leading to aging in her immune system.  This term immunosenescence has been advanced for some years as the primary driver for aging in death in older individuals.

Now imagine you could add length to the aged stem cell telomeres and potentially reverse this problem.

I have documented similar changes in my own immune compartment after 2 to 3 years of use of TA-65.  I believe the importance of proving TA-65 works is paramount. I have confirmed it using 3 different telomere measurement technologies including the absolute gold standard, the HTQFISH by Life Length.

Now I could still be hit by a bus of course and nothing is guaranteed, but I do not know of one single other intervention that would yield that result. And I should know because as an anti-aging doc I have done everything feasible for the past 15 years including regular exercise. Prior to TA-65 my telomere lengths were shortening faster than I was aging. I was biologically almost a decade older than my age based on telomere length.  I was feeling it too!

Now my telomeres are doing something unheard of. They are getting longer as I get “older”.

Chronologically aging while biologically youthing sounds like a good idea to me!

If you rely on only exercise or diet or any other life style modification to alter you telomere length and health, you will only be slowing down the inevitable.  That is a choice you need to make sooner rather than later.

Doc

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