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Telomere Testing

What are Telomeres?

Telomeres are sections of DNA at the end of each chromosome that serve as a cap to the genetic material. Their purpose is critical to the life of the cell by serving as protective buffers that keep the ends of the chromosomes from becoming attached to each other or rearranging. If cells divided without telomeres, they would lose the necessary information at the end of each chromosome. In this way, telomeres prevent chromosomal fraying. Every time a cell replicates, its telomere will become shorter, eventually causing cell death once the telomere arrrition has reached critical length.

How is Telomere tested?

The Patient Telomere Score is calculated based on the patient’s telomere length on white blood cells (T-lymphocytes). The higher the telomere score, the “younger” the cells. A Telomere Score that is above the average line is desirable. Age adjusted telomere length is the best method to assess biological age using structural analysis of chromosomal change in the telomere. Serial evaluation of telomere length is an indicator of how rapidly one ages relative to a normal population. Therapies directed at slowing the loss of telomere length may slow aging and age-related diseases.

What are some causes of a low Telomere score?

An inflammatory diet, or one that increases oxidative stress, will shorten telomeres faster. This includes refined carbohydrates, fast foods, processed foods, sodas, artificial sweeteners, trans fats and saturated fats. A diet with a large amount and variety of antioxidants that improves oxidative defense and reduces oxidative stress will slow telomere shortening.

 What can I do to improve my Telomere score?

Consumption of 10 servings of fresh and relatively uncooked fruits and vegetables, mixed fiber, monounsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, cold water fish, and high quality vegetable proteins will help preserve telomere length. In addition, it is advised to reduce total daily caloric intake and implement an exercise program. Fasting for 12 hours each night at least 4 days per week is recommended.

Decreasing visceral fat is very important. Regular aerobic and resistance exercise for at least one hour per day, sleeping for at least 8 hours per night, stress reduction, discontinuation of all tobacco products are strongly recommended. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy may decrease the rate of telomere loss.

Recent evidence suggests that a high quality and balanced multivitamin will also help maintain telomere length. Specifically, studies have linked longer telomeres with levels of vitamin E, vitamin C, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids and the antioxidant resveratrol. In addition, homocysteine levels have been inversely associated with telomere length, suggesting that reducing homocysteine levels via folate and vitamin B supplementation may decrease the rate of telomere loss. Similarly, conditions such as cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerosis and even dementia affect telomere length. Correcting subclinical nutritional deficiencies that may contribute to such diseases is crucial for telomere maintenance.

Minimizing associated risk factors that are linked to shortened telomere activity is recommended:

  • Reduce oxidative stress
  • Correct micronutrient deficiencies, in particular, vitamin C,D, and E
  • Change sedentary lifestyle by increasing physical activity
  • Avoid weight gain or obesity
  • Correct insulin resistance