New study finds health kick can reverse the ageing process

Study conducted by the University of California suggests our genes may be a predisposition - but they are not our fate

The results of a study conducted by the University of California suggest that going on a health kick could reverse cell ageing, according to researchers.

The small pilot study, conducted by a team from the Preventative Medicine Research Institute, examined how telomere shortness in human beings acts as a "prognostic marker of ageing, disease and premature morbidity" .

Just as shoelace tips stop fraying, telomeres keep chromosomes stable and prevent mix-ups when cells divide.

But each time a cell divides, its telomeres shorten. In the end they can no longer ensure chromosomal stability and this is when genetic mistakes begin to occur.

Eventually the cell freezes and stops dividing, or destroys itself.

The speed at which telomeres shorten varies in individuals and biological ageing is faster in people who already have rapidly-shortening telomeres.

Short telomere length in white blood cells is especially associated with age-related diseases, including many types of cancer.

But the results of this study showed positive changes to diet and lifestyle encouraged longer telomeres.

Researchers followed 35 men who had suffered low-risk prostate cancer and had chosen to undergo active surveillance.

Twenty-five male participants placed in the "intervention group" underwent a series of lifestyle changes to their diet, activity, stress management, and social support such as counselling. Ten men in the control group did not undertake any life style changes and continued to live as they normally would.  

Blood samples were taken for analysis from both groups five years later.

Men in the intervention group who had switched to a strict vegetarian lifestyle, exercised and practiced yoga showed considerably genetically younger cells. Instead of the length of their telomeres shortening, they increased by ten per cent.

In contrast, the telomeres of men in the control group had shortened in length by 3 per cent.

It has been suggested as a trigger mechanism for the genetic scrambling associated with prostate cancer. Men with short telomeres in prostate cancer-associated cells are much more likely to die from the disease.

Professor Dean Ornish, from the Preventive Medicine Research Institute at the University of California in San Francisco, US, who led the team, said: “The implications of this relatively small pilot study may go beyond men with prostate cancer.

“If validated by large-scale randomised controlled trials, these comprehensive lifestyle changes may significantly reduce the risk of a wide variety of diseases and premature mortality.

“Our genes, and our telomeres, are a predisposition, but they are not necessarily our fate.”

“Our bodies often have a remarkable capacity to begin healing themselves, and much more quickly than we did once realize, if we simply make the lifestyle changes that are really the primary determinants of our health and well-being,” he said.

"It's not the fountain of youth, but it certainly is a step in the right direction. Until now we thought that only telomeres could get shorter. Now we found that they actually can get longer."

Results were published in the Lancet Oncology Journal on Monday. However, some experts are arguing that as the group were only monitored for a five year period, it was too soon to draw definite conclusions from the results.

Biochemist Dr Lynne Cox, from Oxford University, said: "This new study suggests that reducing stress, improving diet and increasing exercise have the effect of not only preventing telomere loss but also of leading to small but significant increases in telomere length, as measured in circulating white blood cells.

"It is perhaps too soon to judge whether this increase in telomere length will correlate with increased longevity or healthspan.

"There are two things to bear in mind here. Firstly, short telomeres that occur as result of chronic stress are highly associated with poor health, and studies in mice have shown improved tissue health when telomeres are restored experimentally. Secondly, by contrast, globally increasing telomere length in cancer-prone mice actually predisposes to more aggressive cancers.

"The small increases in telomere length in this new human study are more likely to correlate with improved health than cancer risk, though it is too early to be definite."

The studies authors also concluded that: "Larger randomised controlled trials are warranted" to confirm their findings. 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with excess, cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?