Longer Telomeres Linked To Lower Risk
Telomeres are caps at the end of chromosomes that protect DNA from degrading. But when a cell divides and the chromosomes replicate, telomeres shorten slightly.
The extent of telomere shortening is not only connected to cellular aging but also to the risk of age-related diseases. In fact, it’s been known for some time that people with early cognitive problems have shorter telomeres. But what about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease?
Researchers took a closer look at the impact of your telomeres on your memory health. Here’s what you need to know…
In the first study, researchers from Oxford University took information from the UK Biobank. This comprehensive health database contains wide-ranging genetic, lifestyle and health information on half a million people aged 40 to 69 who were enrolled between 2006 and 2010. The Oxford team analyzed information from 31,661 of them, including brain scans and measurements of the length of telomeres in white blood cells taken from blood samples upon enrollment.
Ideally, researchers would measure telomere length in brain tissue, but this isn’t ethical in living people, so instead they analyzed white blood cells. Fortunately, white blood cells serve as a window to telomere length throughout the body.
Longer Telomeres Linked To A Healthier Brain
After a thirteen year follow up, the Oxford team found those with longer telomeres had more grey matter in the brain and a larger hippocampus, both of which shrink in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Those with longer telomeres also had a thicker cerebral cortex. This is great news because the cerebral cortex thins as Alzheimer’s disease progresses. Many other aspects of the brain were also in better shape in those with longer telomeres when they were compared to those with shorter telomeres.
The researchers concluded their study by writing: “We found associations between telomere length, a marker of biological aging, and multiple aspects of brain structure. This may explain why individuals with longer telomeres have a lower risk of dementia.”
The second study was carried out by scientists from China.
Short Telomeres Boost Alzheimer’s Risk
by 28 Percent
For this study, researchers once again used data from the UK Biobank and analyzed the brain health and telomere length of 439,961 participants.
After taking age, gender and other important factors into account, researchers found that participants with the shortest telomeres were 14 percent more likely to be diagnosed with dementia and 28 percent more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s than those with the longest telomeres.
What’s more, brain scans conducted in 2014 on 38,740 of the participants revealed that as telomeres got shorter so did total brain volume, white matter volume, and the volume of various brain structures including the hippocampus, the thalamus, which is involved with sensory processing, and the nucleus accumbens, what’s known as the “pleasure center” of the brain.
The authors concluded by writing: “These findings highlight telomere length as a potential biomarker of brain health.”
These aren’t the first studies to show a link between telomere length and memory health.
Shorter Telomeres Predicted Cognitive Decline
In another study of nearly three thousand healthy people in their seventies, shorter telomeres predicted cognitive decline during the follow-up period, seven years later. And yet another study with nearly two thousand participants found those with shorter telomeres had a smaller hippocampus, part of the brain that helps form, organize and store memories.
Even though such evidence goes back over two decades, studies looking at telomere length and brain health are surprisingly few and far between. What’s more, none of these studies conclusively prove that shorter telomeres are a cause of dementia. However, if we want to keep our “little grey cells” functioning we need to do everything we can to slow or even reverse telomere attrition. Fortunately, you have more control over the health of your brain and your telomeres than you think.
Five Easy Ways To Save Your Telomeres
Not surprisingly, the best way to preserve long, healthy telomeres is by making healthy lifestyle choices. These include five simple habits such as:
- Getting Regular Exercise: Sedentary people have shorter telomeres while exercise helps maintain them. Moderate aerobic endurance exercise and high-intensity interval training were the most beneficial in one study, but any activity that improves cardiac fitness will help.
- Enjoying Good Sleep: Inadequate time spent in sleep, poor quality sleep, and sleep disorders are all linked to shorter telomeres. If you’ve tried various methods but still struggle with sleep, cognitive behavioral therapy can help.
- Eating A Healthy Diet: Being overweight (not obese) is not strongly linked to shorter telomeres. What seems to matter is a large waist size, excess body fat and diabetes. A low sugar diet filled with healthy, complex carbohydrates is the best way of reducing body fat and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.
- Choosing Telomere Lengthening Foods: Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, seaweed, oily fish, green tea, and coffee are all associated with longer telomeres. So are vitamin C, vitamin E and folate.
- Taking Telomere Supporting Supplements: Research shows that certain nutrients can help you maintain healthy telomeres. That’s why we created Genesis with a patented nutrient called Telos95 shown in a recent study at Princeton Consumer to support telomere health.
As we learn more about the importance of telomeres in human health and aging, I suspect we’ll continue to uncover new insights into the role of telomeres in memory health. Meanwhile, you can’t go wrong with making healthy lifestyle choices to support telomere health. Many of those choices are already proven to not just support telomeres but improve the health of your body and mind.
The Awakening From Alzheimer’s Team
https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/982860 Telomere shortening – a sign of cellular aging – linked to signs of Alzheimer’s in brain scans.
The Telomere Effect by Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel, Orion Spring, London 2018