Aging is a complex biological process characterized by a progressive decline of organ functions leading to an increased risk of age associated diseases and death. Decades of intensive research have identified a range of molecular and biochemical pathways contributing to aging. However, many aspects regarding the regulation and interplay of these pathways are insufficiently understood. Telomere dysfunction and genomic instability appear to be of critical importance for aging at a cellular level. For example, age related diseases and premature aging syndromes are frequently associated with telomere shortening. Telomeres are repetitive nucleotide sequences that together with the associated sheltrin complex protect the ends of chromosomes and maintain genomic stability.
Recent studies suggest that micronutrients, such as vitamin D, folate and vitamin B12, are involved in telomere biology and cellular aging. In particular, vitamin D is important for a range of vital cellular processes including cellular differentiation, proliferation and apoptosis. As a result of the multiple functions of vitamin D it has been speculated that vitamin D might play a role in telomere biology and genomic stability. Here we review existing knowledge about the link between telomere biology and cellular aging with a focus on the role of vitamin D. We searched the literature up to November 2014 for human studies, animal models and in vitro experiments that addressed this topic.
Recent studies on aging are shedding light on the fact that the health of our Telomeres, the caps at the end of each strand of our DNA that protects our chromosomes, may be the best indicator of our general health and immune system. As well as an indicator of how long we have to live. Destroy your Telomeres and you are opening yourself up to diseases of all types, especially cancers.
Telomeres live at the ends of our Chromosomes and protect us from what some call our "genetic data" and make it possible for cells to divide. Each time a cell divides, the telomeres get shorter. When they get too short, the cell can no longer divide. This process is associated with aging, cancer, and risk of early death.
It should be no surprise that Vitamin D is considered a genetic modifier. Researcher Ben Fuchs explains "vitamin D changes the activity of genes, turning some on and others off, in true epigenetic style, ultimately supporting the growth and maturation of cells. It acts like a genetic master switch that activates genes and changes the type and amount of protein molecules a cell produces. To perform its role as a genetic activator, Vitamin D gets its own personal escort, not only into a cell, but into the nucleus, the little segregated center that contains the cellular programming, the DNA. Essentially, it is carried into the hard drive of a cell, where it is granted access to tweak the genetic software".
So, does vitamin D levels play a role in the well being of our Telomeres, our actual DNA? To answer that we have to look no further than this abstract from the NCBI entitled "The role of telomeres and vitamin D in cellular aging and age related diseases".
What else effects the health of our Telomeres?
It's not just vitamin D and sunlight that protects and strengthens telomeres. Sunlight also strengthens and lengthens telomeres through melatonin. The expression of telomerase makes melatonin extremely important in our fight against the disease we call aging. The sun’s rays tell the brain’s pineal gland when to produce melatonin and how much of it to make. Turns out telomeres have receptors that communicate with the hormones in your body, including melatonin.
More Than Just a Sleep Aid
Research has shown melatonin gives us an incredible boost in telomerase and greatly decreases oxidative stress. Proof that melatonin is not only useful as an antioxidant but appears to improve telomerase expression resulting in our cells staying younger for much longer. We have all heard of HGH in the news, as if it was some magical new supplement. But in reality HGH is just another important hormone, a human growth hormone. Melatonin is critical in regulating the production of HGH and stimulates our telomerase to strengthen and lengthen our telomeres.
Zinc and Telomeres
Study concludes telomere length is associated to zinc status. One of the first studies of telomere length and micronutrients in healthy children measured telomeres of 437 healthy children and correlated that to blood levels of micronutrients. After adjusting for several variables (age, sex, even parental education level), an inverse association of telomere length and zinc was found. Although the mechanism of action for better zinc status preserving telomeres is not completely understood, the authors suggest it may be due the role zinc plays in combating oxidative stress.
And zinc plays a big role in distributing vitamin D into the cells of our bones, it is actually required during every single step of the complex process of bone metabolism. Unfortunately most westerners have such a poor diet that supplementing zinc is about the only way of guaranteeing we get enough zinc. That can create problems since it is critical to maintain a balance between zinc and copper intake. This is easily done with a proper plant based diet but most people should consider taking about 2 mg of copper per day along with their zinc supplement.
Foods high in Zinc
Sesame seeds, Pumpkin seeds, Cashews, Quinoa, Spinach, Lentils, Peas, Lamb, Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans), Sunflower seeds, Mushrooms.
Foods high in Copper
Mushrooms, Sesame seeds, Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans), Sunflower seeds, Lentils, Cashews, Walnuts, Lima beans, unrefined whole grains. If you focus on quality whole grain unrefined bread products this becomes less important as this tips the scales in favor of copper.
Don't Leave Out The Astragalus
No respectable telomeres lengthening protocol would be without Astragalus. Research has found that astragalus can reduce telomere shortening since it has proven to reduce DNA damage and improve DNA repair. It is also effective in protecting against advanced glycation end products and has proven to have anti-cancer benefits.
A study at the Georgia Regents University of Augusta Georgia ran a study on 37 overweight African-Americans. These participants took the 2,000 IU's of vitamin D3 or placebos daily for 16 weeks. Participants taking the D3 had almost a 20 percent increase in the activity of their telomerase, the actual enzyme that lengthens telomeres.
Dean Ornish and Elizabeth Blackburn were able to get elderly prostate cancer survivors to lengthen their telomeres by 10% over 5 years with exercise, low fat vegan diet, fish oil, tofu, soy protein drink, selenium supplement, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E .
Vitamin D Protocol
We've done the research.....Here is our Vitamin D Protocol