The repeating sequence of the Telomere-TTAGGG has proven to be a gold mine for determining biologic age ( how old your body is acting!) and disease prognosis ( how bad you are likely to get something) as well as the effects of stress.
A recent study on the effects of racism on the telomere length of black men was the latest to show how social stress can affect longevity. I have concerns about how the study was done but I think it makes sense to say that this kind of stress is detrimental to anyone’s health no matter what race or color.
This study builds on previous studies done in orphans who grew up with universally shorter telomeres than non orphans, and the effects of stress on caregivers responsible for sick children. All of these situations lead to more rapid aging and faster decline. You can bet being sick in general can shorten your telomeres and your life.
This was shown by another study involving men between 50 and 75 who were admitted with ACS, acute coronary syndrome. Basically they were on their way to having a heart attack and no doubt some of them did. The ones with the shortest telomeres did worse.
This study echoes the now famous Farezeneh Far, Blackburn study that showed that Omega 3 (fish oil) levels were protective of telomeres in heart disease.
So it seems everyone is linking just about everything bad that can happen to you to short telomeres and everything good to long telomeres.
It would be a good time for me to mention that other diseases of aging like Cancer and Alzheimer Disease ( yes they dropped the ‘s!) are also linked to telomere length in terms of incidence and severity.
Now there is still a lot of disagreement among researching scientists as to whether telomere loss is actually all that important in aging. This pretty much depends on what their pet project is and where their grant money comes from.
I have a simple ( my PhD colleagues would say simplistic!) way of explaining this. My friend Maria Blasco did a study recently that showed that turning on telomerase extends life span in adult and old adult mice. That was the end point of the study. There are many other people out there looking at things like intracellular junk (lipofuscin) mitochondrial function, calorie restriction, sirtuin proteins and mTOR inhibitors. None of these strategies have been shown by themselves to lengthen life although some of them seem to improve health.
I am certain that ALL of these things were improved by telomerase activation or the mice would not have lived longer. You can’t live longer with declining mitochondria, abnormal proteins and increasing intracellular junk. It’s simply not possible. But because these things were not specifically measured common sense takes a back seat to scientific skepticism.
Here’s the thing: They would rather remain skeptical than investigate these questions probably because their grand money does not include answering these questions. It does involve protecting their source of income for their pet project however.
Here’s another thing: as I said above Telomerase Activation seems to be the only current feasible way to extend life in mammals. The folks spending time on all that other stuff have been unable to demonstrate increased longevity AND healthspan.
Want it to be even more simple?
I will quote that bastion of American Health who brought us the great Dr Oz.
Yes, I am talking about Oprah who said “I want long telomeres!” She should be on TA-65!
You probably should too!
I am entering year 5 with nothing but positive improvements in both telomere length and % of short telomeres. Both are going the right way for decreasing biologic age.
PS what I have said here is especially important if YOU are under constant or severe stress, get sick a lot or have a family history of one of those nasty diseases above!