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How lifestyle changes can reverse ageing

Fancy stopping Father Time? Eat your greens and meditate, researchers say.

Image: Monkey Business Images via Shutterstock

HUMANS MAY BE able to turn back the hands of time if a new study is proved right.

A pilot study published today in The Lancet Oncology shows that changes to lifestyle can increase the length of telomeres.

Telomeres are DNA-protein complexes at the end of chromosomes that directly affect how quickly cells age — they protect the ends of chromosomes and help them remain stable, rather like the tips of shoelaces that keep them from fraying.

As telomeres become shorter and their structural integrity weakens, then cells age and die more quickly.

Telomere length is an indication of biological age. Shorter telomere length is associated with an increased risk of premature death and age-related diseases, including many forms of cancer (including breast, prostate, colorectal, and lung cancers), cardiovascular disease, vascular dementia, obesity, stroke, osteoporosis, infectious diseases, and diabetes.

Professor Dean Ornish and colleagues at the Preventive Medicine Research Institute and the University of California, San Francisco, carried out a pilot study among 10 men who were diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer.

The ten were asked to make lifestyle changes including diet change, moderate exercise, meditation and yoga as well as increased social supports.

After five years, researchers measured the length of the participants’ telomeres

In the group who made comprehensive lifestyle changes, telomere length increased significantly by an average of 10 per cent, but in the control group, telomere length decreased by an average of 3 per cent.

If the findings are confirmed by larger randomised controlled trials, scientists will begin to have a better understanding of how lifestyle changes may have the potential to reverse ageing on a cellular level.<

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