Mortality confronts each of us every day through the choices we make. Should I drive fast to work? Should I smoke? Should I drink? Should I eat this slice of greasy pizza or this fresh salad? Have you ever wondered if there was a way you could live longer and healthier naturally? If so, read on….
Over the weekend, I watched a show called ‘Decoding Immortality‘ on the Smithsonian Channel (click on decoding immortality to view the entire episode online, or watch it in the embedded player below). The program chronicles the research of Nobel Prize winning biologist Carol W. Greider into the structure of telomeres (the ends of DNA), and how they discovered that an enzyme called telomerase can prevent telomeres from shorting. Unfortunately, there is one dramatic paradox to this fountain of youth story — by chemically introducing telomerase into cells, you boost their longevity upwards by a factor of 10, but you also dramatically increase the risk of cancer in those cells.
To put a little perspective around all of this, you need to understand a little about cell division. As normal cells divide, their telomeres become shorter and shorter. Think of DNA as a shoelace and telomeres as the protective capped ends of the shoelace. After about 50 or so divisions, the caps get so short that the ends of the DNA become exposed, which causes the cell to die. This is called the Hayflick Limit for the scientist who discovered this phenomenon. What telomerase does is it helps both preserve, and in some cases, even increases the length of the telomeres, thus making the cell, in some respects, immortal. The converse is also true. Think about the possibilities, for treatment of the physical signs of aging, to the prevention of degenerative age-related diseases. Think of it as nature’s version of Ponce de Leon’s fountain of youth.
Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, as they chemically added telomerase into cells, and further into lab mice, they saw that cancer rates also increased in turn, negating the longevity benefits of telomerase. Many cancers actually cause the increase of telomerase, which makes them so difficult to treat. Conversely, when they decreased, or completely removed all naturally occurring telomerase from mice, the mice cells quickly degenerated, and the mice had extremely short life spans. Many biologists and scientists are now looking at ways to decrease telomerase in cancer cells as a way to combat to cancer.
So what does this mean in the search for immortality, or at least a longer, healthier life, if the same enzyme that provides cellular immortality also is also fatal by providing cancer with unlimited ammunition to destroy your body? The answer is natural telomerase.
Naturally generated telomerase, at least from initial studies, seems to be able to provide the benefits of artificially introduced telomerase, without the cancer inducing aspects. This can be achieved by eating a healthy, low fat diet, increasing omega-3 consumption (fish oil), lowering stress levels, and exercising. A study was conducted with patients who had prostate cancer, and out of those, in the first 90 days, the patients who followed the program saw natural telomerase levels increase by 30%. In addition, many saw their cancer progression slow, if not reverse, when they introduced these steps into their lifestyle. (An additional study can be found at http://www.natap.org/2010/HIV/012010_01.htm).
Now, after hearing all of this, doesn’t it encourage you to get healthy now, instead of later? I know I personally don’t want to live forever, but I would love to live a long, full, healthy life right up until the end. If you feel the same, or if you want to strive for your own version of immortality by getting healthy, then take our ‘Get Healthy’ challenge. At worst, you will lose weight, boost your energy levels, and feel great, and at best, you will answer the question ‘How to live longer and healthier naturally’, and you might just find the fountain of youth…