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Can your body turn back time?

Have you heard about telomeres? Telomeres protect DNA strands like plastic caps at the end of shoelaces. In 2009, three scientists won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their research showing the link between telomere shortening and aging. Their research theorized that the symptoms of the aging process can be slowed if telomeres length can be maintained. Researcher Rodrigo Calado from the University of São Paulo in Brazil explained: “Each time a cell divides, its telomeres get shorter… Eventually, the cell can’t replicate anymore and dies or becomes senescent [biologically aged]”, which can lead to disease and problems associated with aging. Shortened telomeres can help predict cancer many years before an actual diagnosis. Scientists discovered that telomeres aged faster in individuals who were developing cancer, looking as much as 15 years chronically older than in those individuals not developing cancer. Also, telomeres are shorter in people with chronic stress and vitamin D deficiency. In a study reported in May 2016 in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers at the National Institutes of Health and other prestigious facilities found that telomeres length can increase, essentially turning back the hands of time, following treatment with certain types of medications that affect hormone levels. In addition, specific combinations of antioxidants help maintain healthy telomeres.

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Am J Clin Nutr. 2007; 86: 1420-5.

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