A new frontier in medical science is making a historic splash in the way many researchers are thinking about the aging process. The length of our telomeres (protective caps at the ends of chromosomes that fray away and diminish naturally as we get older) may hold the key to discovering how well our bodies will age and our susceptibility to chronic illnesses.
One researcher from Spectracell said in a recent NBC interview that the value of telomeres testing for the general public is as a measure of how well you are aging on the inside. The wearing of telomeres over time, which progresses at significantly different rates for different people, even those close in chronological age, is based on a combination of genetic and environmental factors and is linked to increased vulnerability to age-related illnesses.
One aspect of telomere length, it’s potential for malleability, is garnering wide attention from both researchers and the general public alike.
According to a growing number of studies, both age and lifestyle habits are variables affecting telomere length. If you’re a smoker, for example, or are under severe psychological stress, you are more likely to carry relatively shorter chromosome caps, says Elissa Epel, a health psychologist at UCSF, who also found that telomeres were shorter in women who reported more stress levels.
A study of data from 586 female participants in a breast cancer patient research survey conducted by the National Institutes of Health found on average 5.1% longer telomeres in daily users of multivitamins than in nonusers. Increased telomere length was associated with one a day and antioxidant formula use, and vitamin B12 use. Vitamins C and E from food were also noticed to protect against loss of telomeres.
Conducted by Brian Duggan June 6, 2011 in New York City
Brian Duggan: Can you tell me about your original interest in healthy aging and Telomere Science?
Noel Patton: I started to notice the inflictions of old age setting in, such as a stiff knee and whatever, so I got interested in anti-aging medicine at that time, that’s 15 years ago, for myself. At that time, anti-aging medicine was pretty primitive and had very few legitimate people in it.