The Elixir of Youth and Slowing Ageing


I was fascinated by Dr Elizabeth Blackburn’s work (and the work of her colleagues) and spent nearly 14 hours researching it. I am currently doing the 5/2 fast to potentially feel better. Fasting (which is not done for the purpose of weight release although that may occur), may induce a state of stress on the body causing the brain to release proteins that help stimulate the growth of neurons. It may reduce the rate of destruction of telomeres – read this Mind Matters News to find out more.


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Elizabeth Blackburn's work

Elizabeth Blackburn was one of 3 recipients who in 2009, won the Nobel Prize in Medicine "for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase". Research has uncovered that shorter lengths of biological structures called telomeres are linked to mortality as well as many age-related diseases. The good news is that certain nutritional and lifestyle factors are associated with longer telomeres.

Telomeres are the portion of DNA that is joined to the ends of each of the 46 human chromosomes in cells. The Nobel Prize winners have found a link between shorter lengths of telomeres and risk of diabetes, some cancers and cardiovascular disease, in addition to depression, dementia and osteoarthritis.

Lectures by Dr Elizabeth Blackburn at UCSF Medical Centre

Part 1: The Roles of Telomeres and Telomerase

If Telomerase is absent Telomeres won’t grow Maintaining Telomerase keeps the process happening – cells dividing.

Part 2: Telomeres and Telomerase in Human Stem Cells and in Cancer

Part 3: Stress, Telomeres and Telomerase in Humans

A Picture from Dr Elizabeth Blackburn which Explains “A Measure of Age”

Telomerase is the enzyme that repairs telomeres and is associated with telomere lengthening.

Some Factors that may Slow the Telomere Shortening Process

So does this mean we are helpless victims of these biological tyrants in the form of telomeres? No. Although the structures shorten as a person ages, research indicates that abstaining from certain practices and engaging in others may influence the lengths of telomeres. Here are some factors that may slow the shortening process from which makes a lot of sense to me.

1. Lead a healthful lifestyle.

In 2008, scientist evaluated the effect of a healthful lifestyle on telomerase levels. Telomerase is an enzyme that plays a vital role in the maintenance of telomeres. Without adequate levels of this enzyme, telomeres become progressively shorter.

The participants in the study were requested to make several lifestyle changes, including eating a diet plentiful in whole foods, fruits and vegetables but low in refined sugar and fat. Additionally they were to regularly engage in moderate workouts, breathing exercises and relaxation techniques. The healthful lifestyle caused the blood levels of telomerase to increase by 29 percent.

2. Consider calorie restriction.

This practice may lessen the natural telomere shortening process that occurs over the years, says Dr. Theodore S. Piliszek of King’s College School of Medicine of the University of London.

3. Enjoy a glass of non-alcoholic red wine daily.

A 2011 study showed resveratrol, a component of red wine, increased telomerase, which delayed the deterioration of cells. In addition, a 2012 study showed the compound increased the lifespan of mice. A daily glass of non-alcoholic red wine could be helpful.

4. Incorporate plenty of fish into your diet.

In 2010, a study published in JAMA found that individuals with the highest level of dietary omega-3s had the lowest rate of telomere shortening, while those with the least levels had the fastest rate of telomere shortening.

5. Eat dark chocolate.

Some studies suggest that the polyphenols contained in dark chocolate may slow telomere shortening.

6. Drink three cups of tea a day.

A Chinese study in 2009 found that those who drank three cups of tea per day had significantly longer telomeres than those who drank only a small amount. Green tea has a much higher percentage of valuable nutrients called polyphenols than black tea.

7. Abstain from smoking and alcohol consumption.

Shorter telomeres correlate with both of these practices.

8. Deal with stress.

Some research suggests stress accelerates the telomere shortening process. Practices such as massage, exercise and relaxation techniques can help siphon off anxiety.

Intermittent Fasting (IF) Has been shown to be more achievable than dieting when you can eat what you like on one day and fast on the next. The 5/2 IF when you eat 500 calories for breakfast and nothing for the rest of the day for 2 days a week seems to be really achievable. In an article in the Wall Street Journal there is exploration research behind the latest fad diet—intermittent fasting—and what it may do for the human body.

Why do I bring this up – because the aim of the fasting is not necessarily to release weight but to increase the Telomere length and thereby assist the process of aging. There are many theories on how IF works for both cognitive and cardiovascular improvements and weight loss. Fasting may induce a state of stress on the body causing the brain to release proteins that help stimulate the growth of neurons. It may reduce the rate of destruction of telomeres (the caps at the end of chromosomes) by inducing less oxidative stress than eating every day. (Gilca M, Stoian I, Atanasiu V, Virgolici B. The Oxidative Hypothesis of Senescence. JPGM 2007, 53(3): 207-213.) 

This site is Well Worth a Look

Are Telomeres the Key to Aging and Cancer?  

In particular scroll down the page and read:

Telomeres and Cancer

Telomeres and Aging

How big is the Role of Telomeres in Aging

So, whether we like it or not we age!  If we can influence our aging process so that we are as healthy as possible then I say - "why not". I have recently been diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation and have taken the steps to redouble my efforts to Actively Meditate, to lead a healthy lifestyle to take my USANA supplements and to do the 5/2 fast.  I still have vices - one of them is enjoying wine 5 days out of 7 - after all "life is for living" and each of us is responsible for Creating Happiness Intentionally..

All the best

Sandy MacGregor

"Your gift from God is your potential – Your gift to God is to use it."


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