Diet, Stress, and Cellular Aging
According to Cindy Leung, Sc.D., M.P.H., from the University of California, San Francisco, diet, stress, and cellular aging are closely linked. Dr. Leung spoke last week at the Physicians Committee’s International Conference on Nutrition in Medicine in Washington D.C.. The effects of this cellular aging impact chronic disease, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancers.
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Diet, Stress, and Cellular Aging
Cindy Leung, Sc.D., M.P.H answers these questions:
1. How do you explain telomeres and cellular aging to a lay audience?
Telomeres are the caps at the end of our chromosomes that protect our DNA from damage. Telomere length naturally shortens with age, but is also influenced by lifestyle factors like diet, physical activity, smoking, and stress. If telomere length falls to a critical short length too soon, the cell is no longer able to divide and can malfunction. Thus, telomere length is a marker of cellular aging.
2. What are the possible health consequences of accelerated cellular aging?
Short telomere length has been linked with higher risks of chronic disease, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancers.
3. Please describe your research on how drinking sugar-sweetened sodas can impact cellular aging.
We know from prior studies that drinking soda is associated with weight gain and higher risks of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Given that telomeric shortness has been linked with many of these same diseases, it was a logical step to examine the relationship between consumption of sodas and other sugary drinks and telomere length. We first conducted a study in a large and nationally representative survey of healthy adults. Next, we examined how these associations change over time in a pilot study of pregnant women at UCSF. In both studies, we found that consuming sugary drinks was associated with shorter telomere length.
4. What other foods or beverages accelerate cellular aging?
Although the research in this area is still emerging, there is evidence to suggest that fruit and vegetable consumption is associated with longer telomere length, and consumption of processed meats is associated with shorter telomere length. A few studies have shown that consuming a Mediterranean-type diet is associated with longer telomere length.
5. Do other lifestyle factors play a role?
Yes! Smoking or having a high body mass index has been associated with shorter telomere length. On the other hand, physical activity has been associated with longer telomere length. These lifestyle factors also contribute to many chronic diseases, so cellular aging is another reason why we should engage in a healthy overall lifestyle.
Source: Diet, Stress, and Cellular Aging
Eating More Meat, Dairy, and Other Unhealthful Foods Leads to Worse Aging
Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine, April 17, 2013: “After an average 16-year follow-up, people who consumed a “Western-type” diet, including a high intake of red and processed meats, whole dairy products, and fried foods, were more likely to die prematurely and to suffer from various chronic diseases including heart disease, stroke, cancer, and mental health disorders, compared with people who avoided such dietary patterns. Researchers analyzed data from 5,350 participants from the Whitehall II study in London and scored dietary patterns using the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI) to assess disease risk. People with better AHEI scores had better overall health outcomes as they aged.”
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