I just wanted to make a quick post highlighting some relatively new studies I’ve just read supporting the anti-ageing benefits of a whole food plant-based lifestyle. The research indicates that a diet high in vegetables and fruits significantly slows down telomere shortening, while inclusion of meats and refined oils accelerates telomere shortening.
What Are Telomeres?
Telomeres are chromosome-protective caps made up of lengths of DNA. Each time a cell divides telomere length is slightly reduced. Once the telomeres become too short to maintain proper protection (or disappear altogether i.e. cell death), chromosomes become more susceptible to genetic damage. The rate of telomere shortening is an indicator of the rate of ageing and possibly of lifespan. Telomere shortening eventually becomes a factor contributing to the development of chronic diseases possibly including cancer.
Studies Supportive of a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet and Regular Exercise
The first of these studies is a meta-analysis and its results are encouraging and quite significant: Dietary patterns, food groups and telomere length: a systematic review of current studies. I’ve included extracts from the study conclusions below.
“Five studies indicated beneficial effect of fruits or vegetables on TL.”
“…a reverse association between TL and intake of cereals, processed meat, and fats and oils was reported.”
TL = Telomere Length.
The next is a cross-sectional study showing the telomere-protective benefits of eating nuts and seeds, an important part of a whole food plant-based diet: Consumption of Nuts and Seeds and Telomere Length in 5,582 Men and Women of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Again I’ve included an extract from the study conclusion below.
“Consumption of nuts and seeds accounts for meaningful decreases in biologic aging…”
Now to a more recent cross-sectional study from March 2018 showing telomere-protective and lengthening benefits from increased fibre intake, and since fibre is only found in plant foods this is yet another reason to consume a whole food plant-based diet to slow down ageing and promote health: Dietary Fiber and Telomere Length in 5674 U.S. Adults: An NHANES Study of Biological Aging. Please see extract below.
“In conclusion, significant fiber consumption accounts for longer telomeres and less biologic aging than lower levels of fiber intake.”
And finally, the following cross-sectional study shows the benefits of physical activity in terms of decreased cellular ageing and telomere lengthening. Regular physical activity is an important part of a health promoting and disease preventing lifestyle: Physical activity and telomere length in U.S. men and women: An NHANES investigation. Extract from study conclusion below.
“Evidently, adults who participate in high levels of PA tend to have longer telomeres, accounting for years of reduced cellular aging compared to their more sedentary counterparts.”
After almost forty years of studying health, nutrition and lifestyle medicine I’m in no doubt that a whole food plant-based eating plan with regular exercise is the most health promoting and disease preventing lifestyle, and I’ve also seen plenty of evidence over the years confirming its anti-ageing properties (antioxidant rich, nutrient dense, high-fibre etc.) but it’s always nice to see further research confirming this :-)
I’m really glad that I’m following a whole food plant-based lifestyle, I also appreciate my exercise bike which allows me to cycle each day despite my dodgy knees :-) Lengthening my telomeres and reducing biologic ageing is going to be helpful in repairing the years of damage caused by my rheumatoid arthritis, and will hopefully contribute to its ongoing reversal. :-)
Chromosome and DNA images are public domain