When considering the vast number of anti-ageing options available on the market today, it is evident that our modern culture is preoccupied in the pursuit to turn back the hands of time. More recently the world of science has also joined the quest for longevity with the discovery of telomeres and the way they can influence cellular ageing and lifespan.
Telomeres are the tiny units of expendable DNA located at the end of every chromosome that acts to protect its genetic material as the cell divides. You could compare their function to that of the plastic tip at the end of your shoelace that stops them from fraying. Each time the chromosome replicates in the production of new cells, these telomere tails shorten until they are no longer able to protect the chromosomes. This ultimately leads to an inability for the cell to replicate and it dies. Considering that our bodies rely on the creation of new cells, you could make the connection that as genetic replication decreases so does our lifespan. The good news is that you can influence the rate of telomere shortening by slowing down and even somewhat reversing it through a specific diet and a healthy lifestyle.
The Ketogenic Diet: Studies have shown that glycation, a process that occurs with high blood sugar levels, is strongly linked to increased cellular damage and turnover. A reduction in telomere length is also primarily associated with glycation, which could be part of the reason why diseases like diabetes are linked to premature ageing. Our bodies, however, have another option other than glucose when it comes to fuel. Fat is an excellent alternate source of energy and is actually preferred by the body.
When glucose consumption is restricted in the diet the body will naturally begin to burn fat. A process called Ketosis occurs when the liver releases ketone bodies from the liver as the body is burning fat. These ketones require only three steps to enter the process that makes energy whereas glucose requires 11. This results in increased efficiency by the mitochondria, the little energy factories of the cell, and a greater level of energy production.
A Ketogenic diet consists of low carbohydrate with only 20 grams or less per day, a moderate protein intake and about 70% of daily food intake from healthy fats. This diet has also had success with insulin resistance, diabetes and other metabolic conditions due to its ability to reduce the production and release of insulin. Lower insulin levels have been linked to reduced tissue damage and a slower ageing process.
Improve Cardiovascular Risk Factors:
Following a Ketogenic diet has also shown to reduce the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease such as lowered triglyceride levels in the blood. Studies have demonstrated an improved balance in cholesterol scores with an increase in the ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL) and a drop in the ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL). Considering coronary heart disease is the leading underlying cause of deaths in Australia, the ketogenic diet provides some significant benefits in promoting long-term health. The production of the powerful antioxidant superoxide dismutase also increases on a ketogenic diet, which has shown to help protect against the development of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.
Consume Only Good Fats:
When following a ketogenic diet it is important to avoid trans fats and consume only healthy fats like avocados, eggs, butter, olive oil and fat from pasture-fed meat. Coconut oil is also a highly beneficial source of fat due to its medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA). These MCFA are efficiently absorbed and metabolised by the liver and are easily converted into ketones. Another fat worthy of mentioning for its anti-ageing properties is omega-3 fatty acids. Research has suggested that omega 3’s are beneficial in reversing telomere shortening by performing a role in the activation of the enzyme telomerase. This is the enzyme that is responsible for adding the telomeric repeats to the end of your DNA strands, thereby lengthening them. Omega 3 fatty acids have also shown to reduce inflammation thereby protecting cells against premature destruction.
Increase Antioxidant Intake:
Switching to a ketogenic diet does not mean restricting all carbohydrate foods. Research has shown that longer telomeres have been associated with a high dietary intake of antioxidants and polyphenols from foods like turmeric, green tea, berries and cacao. Living Valley has formulated their own blend of powerful polyphenols consisting of alfalfa, wheat grass and green barley called Living Greens. When taken daily this can significantly increase your daily antioxidant status. Resveratrol found in grapes has also received some noteworthy praise for its anti-ageing effects by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, improving cardiovascular health and supporting healthy cellular replication. The spice Cayenne pepper is also an excellent source of antioxidants, containing the carotenoid beta-carotene, which has shown to provide relief and protection from many degenerative diseases.
Nutrients that Support DNA:
Specific nutrients such as the B group vitamins are essential for maintaining healthy DNA synthesis. Folate, in particular, plays an important role in influencing telomere length by maintaining DNA integrity and methylation. Vitamin B3 has also demonstrated its ability to extend the life of human cells by reducing free radical damage to the cell’s energy factories called the mitochondria. Other nutrients that have shown to greatly influence telomere length include zinc, iron, and Vitamins C, D and E. The main action by which these nutrients seem to influence telomere length is by affecting the activity of telomerase. Significant research has shown that telomerase is able to maintain genetic stability, prevent the inappropriate activation of DNA damage pathways and regulate cellular ageing.
It is also no surprise that individuals who are actively involved in regular exercise and stress reduction techniques are found to have a lower biological age based on telomere length. It is clear that the secret to staying younger for longer cannot be found simply in a pill or potion but must come from providing your body with what it needs to stay vital and healthy.
If you would like more information on the ketogenic diet then check out the documentary “The Magic Pill” featuring Living Valley’s involvement in the first ever Australian indigenous health retreat program with the Yolngu people. To source any of the products mentioned in this article just visit our health shop.