Dave Lakhani

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What is the best way to leverage telomere science to increase longevity, what will have the greatest impact on telomeres, diet, supplements?

I've been studying the nobel winning telomere science and finding many very interesting ideas on extending telomere length, health span and life span. I'm curious to know what has the most impact on telomere length. Is it diet? Exercise? Supplementation? What is your favorite books or resources on the subject?

  • Feb 18 2011: Hello all glad I saw this post as I am an author of the Immortality Edge. This is a really good question and reminds me of the very same question I asked at an anti-aging conference 12 years ago. At that time I was asking about supplements diet and hormone replacement since that is pretty much all that was studied. The answer was “diet”. But that was then and this is now. The answer has not really changed all that much but we need say nutrition and include supplements in that discussion.

    Telomere based interventions are absolutely worthwhile since pretty much everything is point that way as the key to not only slowing maybe even stopping aging but having great health in the process. We can divide them into 2 separate arms-those that slow down telomere loss and those that add telomere length.

    Those that slow down telomere loss include proper diet sleep exercise and meditation and quite a few supplements. Diet wise I recommend a Paleolithic diet since preliminary data suggest it may slow down telomere loss and it fits our genetic evolutionary pattern.

    If you were to ask me what was the easiest thing to do I would have to say supplements and with all the data coming out of supplement intervention there is more and more cause to say if you do nothing else…The standouts in the supplement category are fish oil Carnosine Co Q 10 Vitamin D3 and green tea presumably including the extracts. None have been shown to increase telomere length however. So simply put they may help ou get closer to our maximum predetermined life span and in at least several of the above cases can improve your health or prevent future illness. As far as Adding length to your telomeres only one supplement called TA-65 does that in safe fashion in humans. There is nothing else that does this including prescription drugs and all of the above life style modifications.
    There is one human study on TA-65. They did not control for diet or supplement use (although some people did use other supplements). In that study TA-65 seemed to work where it was needed most in just about everyone who took it. It is considered very expensive by many people ranging anywhere from $6 to $25 a day depending on the dose. I am a bit biased when it comes to the cost because I feel my life and health have no set price tag. In addition I had been waiting for something like this for years when it finally came out a while back. Higher doses seem to be most effective although there is some effect at all the recommended doses. It seems to work pretty much no matter how bad you treat yourself although I am certain you can “make its job much easier and get far better results even, if you do ALL of the things.
    The most dramatic effects of exercise have been shown in elite long term highly conditioned middle distance runners who had been running for 20 years on average. Their telomere length was actually close to that of a 25 year old. That is obviously a pretty select group but other studies have shown that vigorous exercise for periods of even 2 years yield benefits in telomere length and functional measurement so aging like lung capacity. For most short high intensity “interval type training” yields a lot of functional benefits and minimal oxidative stress so this is what most people need.

    So what should you do? Everything you can. The more good things you do for your telomeres the better off you’ll be. If you can afford it the most promising and dramatic results are with TA-65. Even if you do everything else right, you will not add length to your telomeres the study is out there about TA-65 in people, free on the internet in the Journal of Rejuvenation Research but I can share a few personal notes. I do a lot of interval training obviously but I also train for ultra marathons from time to time. TA-65 made me a lot faster. As a matter of fact I was able to take a full minute off my 1 mile interval times doing nothing else 3 weeks after I started it. I also recover faster from the long runs when I do them. I haven’t been sick since I started taking it even though as a doctor I am around a lot of sick people. The mental focus and sexual energy are well… astounding. I also have lengthened my telomeres to equate to about 5 years younger. I am on the highest dose and have been on that dose now for about 2 years. The study I mentioned above show that TA-65 works in a dose dependent fashion. The problem I have found is that the lower dose does work on telomeres but people do not feel the other stuff I mentioned above until they get to the higher doses. At least not right away. For most knowing their “biologic fuses” aren’t burning down is good enough. There are a good many other things you can and should do whether or not you can afford TA-65.

    Our book The Immortality Edge is obviously my favorite reference as well for all of the above. It’s pretty easy to read but thorough. It’s loaded with prescriptive advice that is easy to follow. In fact it’s pretty much the ONLY reference of its kind.
    • Feb 18 2011: Thank you. Seeing as I work for a supplement company, I'm happy to hear that If I fail at implementing all of your recommendations, I KNOW I have that one down! Now I just need to work on getting the exercise and relaxation piece down.
  • Feb 17 2011: I work in the health and nutrition field and I stay on top of "health buzz". I've been seeing a lot more written about telomere biology, and I'm having more conversations with my accounts who see people every day that are interested in anti-aging and living healthier. I myself have noticed that people don't equate living longer with living healthier and I think it is says a lot about medicine's focus on disease and its inevitability. I bought a copy of The Immortality Edge and was surprised how different the authors approach to anti-aging is when compared to many of the other voices in that field. They point to research that calls into question our ideas about HOW long we can live and HOW inevitable disease is. If you've read the book then you know they recommend getting proper sleep, exercise (a specific type of exercise) and specific nutrients to prevent our telomeres from shortening (when telomeres get too short our cells stop replicating and/or die). This may not seem like new information because health experts have always supported these activities, but these recommendations are specific and because they proved a direct link to our true indicator (telomere segments) of health and biologic age I found myself more motivated to follow the advise and routines they provide. My question when reading the book was whether one is more important than the other or more likely to keep me young...if I practice the meditation and relaxation techniques and perform the exercises religiously is that better than eating "perfectly" and taking the nutrients recommended? I'm still human and I'm not going to be perfect all of the time, so I guess I'd love to know which one will have the least negative impact if I don't implement it as regularly. I am loving where science is moving. Based on what I see in this book, the connection between science and anti-aging appears to be taking a more holistic approach.
  • Feb 17 2011: After reading "The Immortality Edge" by Dr Fossel, Dr Woynarowski and Ms Blackburn, I have started low dose TA-65, switched to a mostly Paleo Diet, and am doing strength and interval workouts. I am hoping that one is never too old to start lengthening their telomeres as I turn 52 in a couple of weeks. From what I learned in the book, science now says I do not have to live my golden years as a traditional "old person". Instead with proper exercise, nutrition, and supplementation I can live my "golden years" as a healthy active adult.
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      Feb 17 2011: I've also read The Immortality Edge and it was the book that really kicked off my search for more information. I found it to be very comprehensive and it made me hungry for more. I haven't started TA65 yet but am strongly considering it. What has our experience been with TA65 so far/
      • Feb 17 2011: I really had to stop and think about this answer. Have there been any noticeable changes? I sleep better, I feel better after workouts, I am lifting heavier weights and walking at a faster pace, and I "feel" younger (not reluctant to try new activities). Is this only because of the TA-65? I do know that I wasn't feeling like this in the months before taking TA-65. I think you should give TA-65 a try.
  • Feb 20 2011: What about meditation and resveratrol on top of all the other aspects? Is resveratrol still thought to lessen chances of death from heart disease and cancer? So is telomerase still consdered a two edged sword? Or is it now understood that telomerase overexpression in cancer is the last master gene altered before a cell becomes cancerous. In overexpression it switches 214 genes so far revealed by Blackburn's associates. Over 50 are associated with growth. Robt Weinberg won an industry prize for showing that he could , using gene switching, with no carcinogen, switch only 3 genes, he turned on an oncogene, turned off a tumor suppressor gene, and in every case had to switch on telomerase. If the first two genes are switched in the appropriate mode to start a cancer, the third will probably be switched by the activated cancer pathways that led to the other other two being switched. So it's unlikely that telomerase activation is dangerous. There is good evidence on many supplements and extracts that fight cancer that will never ever get drug company funding because they are not patentable. I suspect the same is true of telomerase activators for longevity. Meditation, exercise, eat green plants, a few fruits, don't use your lungs for industrial air filters, don't let anyone else do that to you either, fight for clean air, clean energy, clean transportation.
    • Feb 20 2011: Hi Robert I encourage you to read our book the Immortality Edge as all of that is in there in prescriptive fashion. In addition you might want to scan my articles on healthiertalk.com because all of these questions have been answered there extensively. They were simply not part of this particular discussion until now. I am not a huge fan or resveratrol as an anti-aging compound in humans at least not just yet. The effects on cancer are of course in genetically modified human cell lines and the human being studies show resveratrol works via adipokines mechanism not SIR mechanisms. That said I think of it as a good anti-oxidant that is still hunting for a mechanism other mechanisms in people to justify its reputation. That of course does not preclude additional discovery but at this point I usually have to roll my eyes when people say they are taking resveratrol or blueberry extract (pterostilbene) for longevity. You’d be far better off balancing your Omega 6 to omega 3 ratios with whatever dose of fish oil is needed for you to do that!
      There is a clear cut distinction between “extending life” by improving health and approaching our genetically pre programmed limit and having health and reversing aging while extending life to a new limit. In most cases the authors of various articles are really talking about the former not the latter. The former may indeed have some contribution from resveratrol or like polyphenols, the latter will as we have seen in mice and human populations require extension of the telomeres not just their preservation.

      As to cancer there are several mechanisms that have to be bypassed and immunosenescence is part of that problem. Cancer is a disease of short telomeres not long unless you figure in the rare ALT mechanisms which comes at the expense of recombination. Cancer also “over expresses” telomerase by as many means as you can think of all at once. Adding TA-65 to pre malignant cells does not increase cancer transformation. Adding TA-65 to cancer prone mice does not increase cancer transformation. And in the human study TA-65 did not lead to any increases in cancer transformation.
      Cancer makes telomerase not the other way around.
      Finally turning on telomerase in the aged mouse model REVERSED aging not just stopping it. This study was actually done more than once although the most recent one got all the airplay. Mouse studies where human skin was grafted on to the mice and then telomerase was turned on returned the human skin to a younger phenotype with young genetic expression.
      None of the other interventions will do that!
      Again all of this is the topic of the Immortality Edge!
      Best Dr Dave