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Aging fat as a cause for diabetes – the role of short telomeres

Older coupleOver the past couple of days, I have dug pretty deep into the metabolic associations between obesity, diabetes, and short telomeres. The end result is of course, accelerated aging.

But, more and more I have to tell you, I think aging is the real cause, or at least a major contributing factor to many of the diseases we associate with aging.  In other words, I think we have it ‘bass acwards’.  Fix aging and you’ll probably get rid of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, arthritis and cancer, to name a few.

Now understand, we can accelerate the process greatly by eating poorly, sleeping poorly, exercising poorly, or not at all and stressing out more frequently.

From my clinical experience, there is a certain inevitability to many of these diseases and even people who seem to age well eventually get nailed by one or more of them when they run out of telomeres!

So, today I want to share with you a bit about diabetes and how aging fat may cause, or at the very least, contribute to it.

If you look at my most recent blogs, I talk about a hormone-like chemical made by fat cells called adiponectin.  The actions of adiponectin limit appetite, improve sugar control and insulin secretion and are generally anti-inflammatory and anti-obesity.

When fat cells get old, they have the same choices that other cells have. Either kick back in the rocking chair and wait for the grim reaper (senescence), or blow up from the inside out (apoptosis).

It’s pretty easy to imagine an exploding cell being the cause of inflammation, but it’s less clear about the rocking chair senescent ones.  Well, if you’ve read my stuff before, then you are aware of something called senstatic activation or more recently SAPs – the senescent activated phenotype.

Bottom line is, those cells sitting in the rocking chair are fairly oozing pus in terms of inflammatory chemicals.  In the process, they not only become non functional, but they support aging as an inflammatory process all by itself.  The only place I know where you may have heard this before is right here in my blog or my newsletters.  Mark my words, you’ll hear much more about it.

As a consequence of aging, fat cells make less adiponectin and take up less sugar – all of which can lead to or worsen age-related diabetes.

The consequence of all of this is shortened telomeres and a vicious cycle of more inflammation, less adiponectin and more destabilization of blood sugar.

Now here is the kicker.  Depending on the following — genetics, epigenetics and lifestyle — the same processes happen in every other cell and every other disease we associate with aging, including Alzheimer’s, cancer and heart disease, all of which are inflammatory.

Short and sweet: Do everything you can to keep your telomeres longer. I won’t belabor those steps here; you’ve heard them all before if you’ve read our book The Immortality Edge or read any of my blogs in the past three years.

Hint: fish oil and TA-65!


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Fish oil and Telomeres – it’s all about length

Telomere on DNA strandI want to believe; I really do!  I want to believe that fish oil, specifically MY fish oil, is a telomerase activator!  But there is this little thing called lying that I am not willing to do.

So here is the truth:

I sent my fish oil to Sierra Sciences for telomerase evaluation and it did not turn on telomerase at the typical doses I recommend – 3 to 6 grams a day.

But all was not lost, because of all the supplements I tested (mostly BS stuff claiming to be telomerase activators and of course resveratrol) my fish oil was the only one that came back as “increasing cellular viability”.

What does that mean?  It means that more cells were alive and healthier at the end of the day – sort of a cellular definition of “Healthspan”.

So this reminds me: if people are going to make claims, I really think they should be responsible for testing the statements for truth.  I do it and, in my opinion, it should be the individual responsibility of whoever is selling, to do the same.

But wait, there is more!  There ARE studies that suggest fish oil is indeed a telomerase activator, as well as an inhibitor.

Now if this confuses you, hang in there for just a moment.

There are two important studies that point to fish oil’s actions on the telomere. One involved people with heart disease; the other simply involved sedentary middle-aged people.

Something happened that is far more important than turning on telomerase and maybe even more important than lengthening telomeres.

People in the heart disease group just plain old did better with more fish oil on board – and yes, fish oil was a big part of how they got their levels up, in spite of the ridiculous and unending suggestions that fish somehow contains a magical element. It does, but it is called Omega 3 and it is cleaner and more concentrated in pills.

Also, understand that while avoiding omega 6 fatty acids is really a very good strategy, most people do not do it and wind up relying on supplements. Sorry, gang, it’s just easier and trust me, the gurus in the field are taking supplements, not ingesting mercury from fish!

In the other study, the effects of fish oil on the telomere were directly related to the reduction in inflammatory markers.

I have written a lot about how vulnerable telomeric DNA is to oxidation in a bunch of my recent blogs, so this is not really a surprise.

Now here is the thing: Fish oil may indeed be an indirect telomerase activator by “downstream” signaling molecules, especially if it is used at high enough doses.  No one has really done that study yet, because most people are not taking as much fish oil as I do.

And while the jury is still out on this, there are so many other reasons to take fish oil that it almost doesn’t matter.

Besides, there are two other great things you can take specifically for your telomere supplements: The Telomere Edge Pack telomere support and the world’s only “proven in humans” telomerase activator, TA-65.

In the long run, it is all about length!






Recommended reading:

Brain Behav Immun. 2013 Feb;28:16-24. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2012.09.004. Epub 2012 Sep 23.

Omega-3 fatty acids, oxidative stress, and leukocyte telomere length: A randomized controlled trial.

Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Epel ES, Belury MA, Andridge R, Lin J, Glaser R, Malarkey WB, Hwang BS, Blackburn E.


JAMA. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2010 February 10.

Published in final edited form as:

JAMA. 2010 January 20; 303(3): 250.

doi:  10.1001/jama.2009.2008

PMCID: PMC2819264


Association of Marine Omega-3 Fatty Acid Levels With Telomeric Aging in Patients With Coronary Heart Disease

Ramin Farzaneh-Far, MD, Jue Lin, PhD, Elissa S. Epel, PhD, William S. Harris, PhD, Elizabeth H. Blackburn, PhD, and Mary A. Whooley, MD

Lipids Health Dis. 2008; 7: 37.

Published online 2008 October 15. doi:  10.1186/1476-511X-7-37

PMCID: PMC2576273

Essential fatty acids and their metabolites could function as endogenous HMG-CoA reductase and ACE enzyme inhibitors, anti-arrhythmic, anti-hypertensive, anti-atherosclerotic, anti-inflammatory, cytoprotective, and cardioprotective molecules

Undurti N Das 1,2

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Score another one for chocolate

Over the past few years chocolate has garnered a lot of attention as a health food.  Some people have even decided it’s a “super food”, capitalizing on a category that seems to encompass everything your grandmother told you to eat when you were growing up, along with some exotic Far Eastern fruits.

Well, recently chocolate scored again with an article about to be published in the British Medical Journal that explores chocolate as a therapy for people with metabolic syndrome.  Metabolic syndrome is a condition that has a couple of different definitions, depending on where you read about it, but one thing is agreed upon — it carries a high risk of heart disease and stroke.

It is also a very common condition in Western societies, encompassing insulin insensitivity, high triglycerides (blood fats), obesity in most cases, high blood pressure and, you guessed it, a total body inflammatory derailment. (OK, I added the last part that is not normally found in the official definitions, but it should be!).

Who would have ever thought that eating chocolate might help cure this kind of problem?

But there are of course some caveats.

First, it has to be dark chocolate and the darker the better, with at least 60-70% cacao content. Keep the sugar to a minimum — something that is hard for Western Chocolatier’s to do. If you’ve ever experienced anything cacao- derived in its native form, including chocolate, you will know it’s anything but sweet!

Another thing that helps is when the chocolate is enriched by polyphenols. This is the reason one of the few things we carry, that I do not make personally, is Xocai chocolate. Xocai keeps the sugar down and adds tons of berry-derived polyphenols.

So how good is chocolate at preventing heart disease, or mitigating its effects? Well, an estimated 70 people out of every 10,000 would avoid fatal heart attack or stroke, which puts it up there with the best ‘preventative’ drugs!  Now what about dose? Well, that is based on total polyphenols content, not actual amounts of chocolate. If you are using Xocai, that means somewhere between 1 to 3 pieces a day.  Other chocolates may vary in cacao content and polyphenols content, so do some research.

As far as weight gain, again, if you use Xocai, you will be consuming between 100 and 300 calories a day above what you get without it.

Now, I have to be honest. I don’t eat the stuff for its heart or vascular benefits and I don’t eat it every day either.  I have fish oil, Co Q, TA-65 , Carnosine and a whole host of other self-made supplements I use for my anti-aging program.

Still, it’s nice to have a treat that may actually help you!


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Epigenetics – the Captain of Your Ship?

About a year ago, I gave a lecture in Boise, Idaho, on anti-aging.  I spent a fair amount of time on epigenetics.  A month or so after that, I spoke at David Wolfe’s Longevity Now Event and predicted epigenetics would be the next big thing.  Well that has apparently happened, as there are a ton of people writing about it now and it recently made the cover of Time magazine.  I have to admit, this is a compressed time table, even in today’s “gotta have it now”, info-based world.

As usual, there is a lot of misinformation and nonsense out there, so it seems a good time to sort it out, so at least YOU won’t be deceived. People have already started using the word epigenetics inappropriately and more than one has used it to try to further an agenda that has nothing to do with it.

Kinda reminds me of the word “telomere” and what has happened since we wrote our little book, The Immortality Edge.

Strictly speaking, epigenetics means “around or surrounding the genome”. The study of epigenetics results in the science of gene expression patterns, heritable through cell division, that is independent of DNA sequence. In other words, stuff that acts like genes but isn’t! More on that later, but this “around the genome” bit structurally refers to the scaffolding matrix that holds our genetic material DNA in tightly wound packets.  It refers to the proteins that surround and are part of that scaffolding and interact with our DNA, some of which actually let pieces of it unwind, for copying purposes.  There are a myriad of scientific terms that refer to the signals that let the epigenetic matrix do its thing. You will hear more of these terms (you might want to find my lectures at Longevity Now on YouTube, since I go over all this, there in detail) like methylation, histone acetylation, ubiquitination, cyclin dependent kinases and the like.  These are part of the signaling that lets that epigenetic matrix do its thing, as well. Finally, you should know that, while I am going to stress how much you can change your physical fate and outcomes by altering your epigenetics, you should understand that a large part of your epigenome is not something you want to change, as it is responsible for genetic stability and lends structural soundness to your DNA.

Take home point 1: Epigenetics is a very complex science that controls how our genes are read. We have a long way to go, to figure out what is involved and what we can and can’t change and how it works.

Take home point 2: Anyone who tries to convince you they have the complete answer and know all there is to know about this, is simply lying or delusional.

OK, enough structural science; what does this epigenetic thing really mean for you and me, anyway?  Well, the real meaning for most people is this: You are not locked into all of your genes. If you’ve been reading my stuff for a while, this is not new to you. But, I am getting more and more new people, so it’s important to repeat it. You are not locked into your genes, mainly because of epigenetics.

Some of the stuff you CAN change, is which genes get read with regards to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, many cancers and all of the inflammatory diseases we associate with the “diseases of aging”.

Epigenetics allows a huge variation in which genes are actually read and which ones are not.  In my lectures, I describe the genes and your DNA, as all the books in the library — and the effect of epigenetics as the books you personally check out and read.  Functionally, this means your environment, which is primarily how YOU treat YOU, determines your fate, not your genes.  As a matter of fact, the 80/20 rule applies here.  You have control over about 80% of your health just by how you eat, sleep, deal with stress, exercise, etc. Your exposure to toxins, radiation, etc. counts as well, but for most of us, it’s the stuff we do every day that matters most. Recent studies have shown that one healthy meal and one bout of exercise can positively improve your epigenetics by altering which genes are read and not read.

If you’ve read The Immortality Edge, then basically everything you do to keep your telomeres healthy is exactly the right thing for “good” epigenetics.

That is the good news; now for some warnings. Epigenetics is heritable.  That means you start out with what your parents gave you. But, unlike your genes, which your parents also gave you, you are not stuck with it. Almost as soon as you are born, your own experiences begin to shape your epigenetics differently, to some extent.  By the time you are a responsible adult (ahem!), you can change them drastically, in a relatively short period of time – weeks to months. Above, I mentioned that one bout of exercise or a healthy meal can start that process almost immediately and with a little persistence, you can make those changes permanent (until you go back to your old habits, anyway!). This means that all this nonsense about “you are fated to be fat, by what your mother ate” is mutable, changeable and utterly under your control, at least as you reach adulthood! It should give expectant mothers pause though!

Another warning! Epigenetics is not the creation of new genes. If the human genome does not have a gene for it, epigenetics will not create that gene. So, for instance, epigenetics does not make eating plant Omega 3’s a good way to get them, because there is no effective way to convert them into the long chain fatty acids you need.  It does not make gluten and lactose good food choices, because the genes to process those substances are either not there, or turned off early in life, in most of us. Epigenetics is not likely to turn them back on and it certainly will not create a new gene.  It also does not mean that you can eat the Okinawa diet and expect the same results as the Okinawans’, since your epigenetics are likely to be very different.  China Study, anyone?!  So, be wary of people who use this argument to further their own dietary agendas.

It’s also probably only a matter of time before some slick marketer starts using the term epigenetics to sell supplements as well. Here is the thing: almost all supplements act via epigenetics.  Fish oil and Vitamin D are two examples, although fish oil also acts directly on membranes, ion channels, mitochondrial biochemistry and of course telomeres as well.  Most other supplements, worth their salt, alter genetic expression by changing and altering the epigenetic matrix.

Once again, everything that is good for your telomeres is good for your epigenetics. Antioxidants, Omega 3’s, Vitamin D, Carnosine (a potent methylating agent, in a good way) and Co Q10 are examples of double duty on telomeres and epigenetic alteration of genetic expression.  I put my vote in for the Telomere Edge Pack and TA-65 for obvious reasons, as well. There is some very intriguing stuff on the horizons for stem cells as well, but this will not come from the usual suspects.  For now, just remember this word: Klotho.  I’ll tell you more about it later and the science is far from certain yet, so keep reading the newsletters and blogs.

My point is, don’t fall for the inevitable “epigenetic supplement or diet” hype, unless it comes from a knowledgeable, credible source, who is more than marketer and actually studies the field.  Trust me, most people out there will be selling old news, packaged in a new box!

The take home point 3 is simple. A good bit of your future and your fate are very much under your control, because of epigenetics.  This is nature’s way of taking what is set in stone (your genes) and creating a tremendous ability to adapt what you build with it! You really are the captain of your ship, to a large extent.

Build well and live well! If you’ve been reading my info for the past 12 years, you are ahead of the game! Tell someone you love.


PS wanna lay bets on how long it takes for someone to come out with the book The Epigenetic Diet or how about Eating for Your Epigenetics – LOL!

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Big Pharma steals from Mother Nature

It may be hard for you to believe but 11 short years ago I was a poster child for Big Pharma.  As a traditional Internist I practiced the art of dispensing drugs and more drugs.  My fall from grace (not literally but figuratively) is well documented in my website story and the many emails I have written since then (some 7,800) but suffice it to say I could no longer buy into a system that produced as many drugs that had to be recalled in one year after being released. I could no longer fall for the statistical machinations used to make drugs look good and I could no longer countenance the FDA’s attempts to suppress its employees from releasing important information.

So whenever I see a “typical traditional medical stance” I always feel compelled to call them on it when it comes from Mother Nature, not big Pharma. You see, they still send me all those free journals and magazines that “real” doctors read.

One of these rags published back to back articles on psoriasis, a skin condition that leads to unsightly scaly skin plaques and has other consequences including arthritis and in some cases heart disease.

The first article was about drugs that reduce “TNF” also known as tumor necrosis factor alpha, a commonly used lab marker for inflammation.  Big Pharma has scored big with TNF inhibitors for psoriasis and autoimmune disorders.  They were excited to report a nearly 50% drop in the heart attack rate in one of their studies using these agents.  They neglected to mention that Mother Nature has her own anti-psoriatic TNF inhibitor know as fish oil, which reduces heart attack rates dramatically without the side effects of outrageous costs of these fancy and sometimes dangerous drugs.

Go figure.

The next article went on to lament serious heart disease acceleration by another class of anti-psoriasis drugs known as “biologic monoclonal antibody therapies”. Their names are nearly unpronounceable and end in “mab”.  These new wave star players showcasing the Pharmaceutical Industry’s technologic prowess and advanced thinking. They are astronomically expensive but of course insurance pays for them (uh, who pays for insurance?!)  Only trouble is they cause heart attacks.


To Big Pharma, at this point I say, “Do nothing, you’ll be just as productive.”  And take your fish oil!