Healthy lifestyle may reverse cellular aging - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Healthy lifestyle may reverse cellular aging

Updated:
© iStockphoto.com / iStock-via-Design © iStockphoto.com / iStock-via-Design
By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Sept. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Healthy behaviors such as exercise, good diet and stress management have the potential to reverse aging on a molecular level and partly restore the vitality of a person's cells, according to a new pilot study.

Healthy lifestyle choices can increase the length of DNA sequences found at the end of a person's chromosomes, said lead author Dr. Dean Ornish, founder and president of the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, Calif.

What's more, the healthier you live, the stronger your chromosomes become, the researchers said in the Sept. 17 online issue of the journal The Lancet Oncology.

"We may be able to reverse aging on a cellular level," said Ornish, a best-selling author who advocates a lifestyle-driven approach to improve health and combat disease. "Our bodies are much more dynamic than we had once recognized, and the more you change at any age the more you can improve."

But one geneticist cautioned that the study findings are preliminary, and raised several unanswered questions

The DNA sequences, known as telomeres, directly affect how cells age and have been associated with an increased risk of premature death and age-related diseases. As telomeres become shorter and their structural integrity weakens, cells age and die faster.

Shorter telomere length has been tied to unhealthy behaviors such as cigarette smoking, chronic emotional stress and poor diet, Ornish said, as well as diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia, obesity, stroke, osteoporosis, infectious diseases and diabetes.

"They're sometimes likened to the plastic tips on the end of shoelaces that keep your laces from unraveling," Ornish said of telomeres. "In this case, they keep your chromosomes from unraveling."

Previous research has shown that adopting a healthy lifestyle can provide many medical benefits, including reversal of heart disease progression. The researchers said, however, that this is the first study to show that the benefits of healthy living may extend down to a person's cellular genetics.

"If validated by large-scale randomized controlled trials, these comprehensive lifestyle changes may significantly reduce the risk of a wide variety of diseases and premature mortality," Ornish said. "Our genes -- and our telomeres -- are a predisposition, but they are not necessarily our fate."

The five-year study focused on two small groups of men diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer that had not been treated. Ten men were asked to make comprehensive lifestyle changes, while a control group of 25 men maintained their personal status quo.

The lifestyle changes focused on four main areas, Ornish said:

  • Eating right. Adoption of a whole-food, plant-based diet that was low in fat and processed carbohydrates.
  • Moderate exercise. Thirty-minute walks six days a week.
  • Stress management. Participation in meditation, yoga and other relaxation techniques for an hour a day.
  • Social support. Attendance at an hour-long support-group meeting once a week.

The researchers took blood samples and measured the length of the participants' telomeres at the start of the study, and again after five years.

The men who made comprehensive lifestyle changes experienced an average 10 percent increase in their telomere length. Men in the control group had their telomeres shrink an average of 3 percent.

Further, there appeared to be a relationship between the "dose" of lifestyle change and the body's response -- the more positive lifestyle choices someone made, the longer their telomeres grew.

"Our bodies in general have a remarkable ability to heal if we simply stop what we're doing," Ornish said. "I've been impressed by how dynamic these mechanisms are and how quickly people can get better."

The pilot study's results are promising, but need to be replicated in a large, randomized trial, said Joseph Lee, a human geneticist and associate professor of clinical epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York City.

"The participants in the intervention group were highly motivated, as they maintained the intervention regimen for more than five years and they continued to attend meetings when the meetings were not required," Lee said. "One needs to be cautious as to how effective lifestyle changes will be in a large general population where the level of motivation may not be so high."

Lee also regretted that the researchers didn't check health traits such as weight, body-mass index or blood pressure along with the length of the patients' telomeres.

"For example, if the participants in the intervention group with longer telomere length had lower blood pressure, it would have been far more interesting," Lee said. "Even though it may not have been significant statistically due to small sample size, it would have been informative."

The study was not intended to gauge whether lifestyle changes slowed progression of prostate cancer.

More information

For more information on telomeres, visit the University of Utah.

Copyright © 2013 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

  • Medical News HeadlinesMedical News HeadlinesMore>>

  • Ocular Melanoma: Saving Lives, Saving Eyes

    Ocular Melanoma: Saving Lives, Saving Eyes

    Friday, April 11 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-11 21:15:07 GMT
    Ocular melanoma, also called uveal melanoma, is a rare type of melanoma that targets the eye. It can be a deadly if it isn't spotted early enough. Now, there's a way to treat patients that's saving lives and saving eyes.more>>
    Ocular melanoma, also called uveal melanoma, is a type of melanoma that targets the eye. It affects about 2,000 people a year in the United States. Although rare – it can be a deadly if it isn't spotted early enough. Now, there's a way to treat patients that's saving lives and saving eyes.more>>
  • Memory Palace: Coping With Chemo Brain

    Memory Palace: Coping With Chemo Brain

    Thursday, April 10 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-10 21:15:09 GMT
    More than 13 million Americans are living with some form of cancer. Harsh treatments like chemo and radiation save lives, but they will also change lives. Now, many cancer survivors are learning how to cope with chemo brain.more>>
    More than 13 million Americans are living with some form of cancer. Harsh treatments like chemo and radiation save lives, but they will also change lives. Now, many cancer survivors are learning how to cope with chemo brain.more>>
  • Pedaling For A Cure

    Pedaling For A Cure

    Wednesday, April 9 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-09 21:15:09 GMT
    Five years ago, Leslie Trudeau's world came crashing down. At just 22 years old, her son Taylor lost his battle with leukemia. That's why Trudeau is pedaling for a cure.more>>
    Five years ago, Leslie Trudeau's world came crashing down. At just 22 years old, her son Taylor lost his battle with leukemia. That's why Trudeau is pedaling for a cure.more>>
  • Bringing Hearts Back To Life: New Improved Defibrillator

    Bringing Hearts Back To Life: New Improved Defibrillator

    Tuesday, April 8 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-08 21:15:13 GMT
    CPR and a portable defibrillator helped keep Eric Robinson alive after he went into cardiac arrest. And now a newly FDA approved Biotronik implantable cardiac defibrillator, or ICD, constantly monitors his heart.more>>
    A year ago, while jamming with his son's band, Eric Robinson went into cardiac arrest. CPR and a portable defibrillator helped keep Robinson alive. And now a newly FDA approved Biotronik implantable cardiac defibrillator, or ICD, constantly monitors his heart.more>>
  • Helping High Risk Hearts

    Helping High Risk Hearts

    Monday, April 7 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-07 21:15:09 GMT
    Ironing is not exactly Barbara Roy's favorite activity, but it's something she's glad she can do again. Her doctor diagnosed her with severe aortic stenosis.more>>
    Ironing is not exactly Barbara Roy's favorite activity, but it's something she's glad she can do again. Her doctor diagnosed her with severe aortic stenosis.more>>
  • Hernias In Newborns: Lincoln's Story

    Hernias In Newborns: Lincoln's Story

    Friday, April 4 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-04 21:15:07 GMT
    Congenital diaphragmatic hernias occur in about one in every 2,000 births. They can be deadly, but now doctors are using a more aggressive treatment approach.more>>
    Congenital diaphragmatic hernias occur in about one in every 2,000 births. They can be deadly, but now doctors are using a more aggressive treatment approach.more>>
  • Predicting Bad Hearts

    Predicting Bad Hearts

    Thursday, April 3 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-03 21:15:09 GMT
    Every year, more than 700,000 Americans have a heart attack. Now, researchers at Baylor Research Institute at Dallas have uncovered a biomarker that may help them spot the disease sooner.more>>
    Every year, more than 700,000 Americans have a heart attack. And 600,000 die of heart disease. Now, researchers at Baylor Research Institute at Dallas have uncovered a biomarker that may help them spot the disease sooner; and they did it by pure accident.more>>
  • Giving Shannon A Voice Of Her Own

    Giving Shannon A Voice Of Her Own

    Wednesday, April 2 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-02 21:15:05 GMT
    More than half a million children under age 15 has a severe communication disorder impairing their ability to speak or communicate with others. Now, advances in technology are giving them a voice—some for the first time.more>>
    More than half a million children under age 15 has a severe communication disorder impairing their ability to speak or communicate with others. Now, advances in technology are giving them a voice—some for the first time.more>>
  • Getting On Your Nerves To Save Your Heart

    Getting On Your Nerves To Save Your Heart

    Tuesday, April 1 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-01 21:15:06 GMT
    Heart failure is the fastest growing cardiovascular disorder in the U.S., affecting more than 6 million people. However, now a new device that gets on your nerves could help save those with heart failure.more>>
    Heart failure is the fastest growing cardiovascular disorder in the U.S., affecting more than 6 million people. It occurs when a person's heart is too weak to pump and circulate blood in the body. However, now a new device that gets on your nerves could help save those with heart failure.more>>
  • New Way To Hear For Grayson: Brain Stem Implant

    New Way To Hear For Grayson: Brain Stem Implant

    Monday, March 31 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-03-31 21:15:07 GMT
    Imagine being born profoundly deaf: missing the vital nerve needed for you to hear. Without it, you had no options; until now.more>>
    Imagine being born profoundly deaf: missing the vital nerve needed for you to hear. Without it, you had no options; until now.more>>
*DISCLAIMER*: The information contained in or provided through this site section is intended for general consumer understanding and education only and is not intended to be and is not a substitute for professional advice. Use of this site section and any information contained on or provided through this site section is at your own risk and any information contained on or provided through this site section is provided on an "as is" basis without any representations or warranties.
Powered by WorldNow
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 NewsChannel 5 (WTVF-TV) and WorldNow. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.