Aging: Why diet and lifestyle matter for telomere length

It’s an interesting fact about marketing that people buy cures more than they buy prevention. So, what does aging need – a cure or prevention?

Sierra Sciences is the company that’s collaborated with Isagenix on Product B, a powerful new anti-aging product that is currently being rolled out. Their slogan is ‘Cure Aging or Die Trying’. Clearly Sierra Sciences believes aging requires a cure, however, I think that makes aging sound like a disease, rather than a natural life process. It seems obvious that the first step to slow or ‘cure’ aging is ’prevention’ - doing what you can to support your body’s youthful resiliancy through healthy lifestyle choices.

Product B may end up being a factor in both - prevention and cure. Isagenix says Product B provides ‘the best telomere support on the market’ when used in combination with the Isagenix nutritional cleansing and replenishing systems. (More on this in a future blog post.)

Product B is a supplement made from dozens of botanical extracts known individually for their antioxident and healing properties - a powerful anti-aging combination that is far superior to the benefits of each individual extract.

In case you’re not clear, telomere length is the new “marker” of health and longevity. They are the end pieces of DNA – visually they’re somewhat like the plastic pieces at the ends of shoelaces.  Telomere length is a complex trait that is shaped by genetics, epigenetics and environmental factors.  The longer the telomeres, the better people are aging.

Medical and nutritional researchers are measuring telomeres in white blood cells (leukocytes) to see how diet and lifestyle influences telomere length.

Relative effect of body composition and dietary factors on telomere length (change in z score) in Nurses’ Health Study. Reference: Cassidy et al. Am J Clin Nutr 2010 (adapted).(Chart at left) Relative effect of body composition and dietary factors on telomere length (change in z score) in Nurses’ Health Study. Reference: Cassidy et al. (adapted).

A June 20, 2011 story by Isagenix Nutritional Sciences, highlighed a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2010. The study analyzed data from 2,284 women who are part of the Nurses Health Study—an ongoing prospective study that has been following 121,700 nurses since 1976 to see how their diets are impacting their health status.

The Isagenix story goes on to summarize how the data was collected…”This cross-sectional study evaluated blood samples from the participants and compared dietary components, body composition and lifestyle parameters gathered from self-reporting or questionnaires administered in 1990.

Based on earlier studies, the researchers hypothesized that dietary and lifestyle factors associated with increased inflammation or oxidative stress would be associated with shorter telomeres. Interestingly, their data confirm that diet and lifestyle do influence telomere length! 

The findings are welcome news for anyone who is interested in adopting behaviors of a healthier lifestyle that can ultimately slow the aging process. For example, the researchers found that women with the highest intake of whole grains, specifically of insoluble (cereal) fiber and vitamin E had the longest telomeres.

Conversely, women with a high fat intake (predominately from linoleic acid, the major polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) omega-6 from corn, safflower and soy oils), increased waist and higher BMI (body mass index) had the shortest telomeres (see Figure above). The strength of the associations were modest (p < 0.05) but support the hypothesis that dietary factors and body composition are related to telomere length.

“Telomere shortening is accelerated by oxidative stress and inflammation, and diet affects both of these processes,” the authors report.”

For the references used for this story, please see

Wendy Vineyard Comments…

Cure or prevention. When you talk about aging, it seems they’re linked in ways that may present interesting marketing challenges.

A population that wants ’instant gratification’ is up for a cure, but may need convincing to give up unhealthy lifestyle habits and change what they eat and their activity levels. You can be sure that many people won’t be bothered to go for any aging  ‘cure’ or prevention, and many will try to take short cuts so they can ‘have their cake and eat it too’!

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