Tell Me More about Telomeres

The secret to slowing down the dreaded ageing process? It’s getting seven hours of sleep a night, eating seaweed, and drinking a few cups of coffee a day, according to Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn.

Blackburn is an Australian-American scientist whose team won the Nobel prize in 2009 for her discovery of telomeres, which can be described as the ‘shoelace’ caps at the end of chromosomes. Thanks to Blackburn, telomeres not only determine how well or badly somebody will age but also can be a predictor of cancer and Alzheimer’s.

Blackburn said the telomeres can be worn down by things such as chronic stress, yo-yo dieting, white bread and sugar. What might help them grow longer is a Mediterranean diet, seaweed, and coffee. To use the shoelace analogy again, telomeres – like shoelace caps – protect our DNA from fraying which can lead to ageing and disease. Chromosomes carry our genetic information and help ensure our DNA is accurately copied with every cell division. Telomeres shorten every time a cell divides and, when they get too short, cells lose their ability to divide (or divide properly) and renew the body tissues that depend on them.

Proper sleep can protect telomeres as can, apparently, caffeinated coffee. Seaweed, whole grains, and vegetables were also found to be associated with longer telomeres.

Other tips as part of Blackburn’s telomere longevity program include including moderate aerobic exercise as part of your lifestyle. Telomeres apparently react well to a combination of light jogging and high-intensity interval training. Lifting weights? Not so much. Mediation may also be a key to lengthening telomeres as depression and stress can harm them.

Blackburn published a book about telomeres last year, called The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Younger if you’re interested in reading more about this amazing topic. Blackburn also gives a great Ted Talk here