Healthy Diet,ExerciseLifestyle changes may affect how quickly cells age. Well we know it sounds so typical but it may hold some truth. A recent US study reveals that exercising more often and eating the right foods may help boost the levels of an enzyme that are important for protecting against age-related cell damage.

A study led by Professor Dean Ornish, from the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in California shows that a healthy and active lifestyle could actually slow down the ageing process of cells by increasing the levels of a particular anti-cancer enzyme.

The researchers wrote, “This might be a powerful motivator for many people to beneficially change their diet and lifestyle. To our knowledge, we have reported here the first longitudinal study showing that comprehensive lifestyle changes – or any intervention – are significantly associated with increases in cellular telomerase activity levels and telomere maintenance capacity in immune system cells,” the authors write. The implications of this study are not limited to men with prostate cancer. Comprehensive lifestyle changes may cause improvements in telomerase and telomeres that may be beneficial to the general population as well.”

Professor Tim Spector, from King’s College London, who has been researching ageing and telomeres, mentioned, “This work builds on what we already know. Lifestyle can affect your telomeres. It would be interesting to find out whether it is diet, stress or both that is important.”

For the study, the researchers put 30 men all with low-risk prostrate cancer on a three month comprehensive trial of lifestyle changes. The programme comprised a diet rich in vegetables and fruits, vitamin and fish oil supplements, an exercise regimen and meditation classes that included stress management, relaxation techniques and breathing exercises. Both at the start and the end of the trial the participants were measured for telomerase activity.

The team analyzed sufficient data from 24 of the volunteers to find if an improvement in diet and lifestyle may have some effects. The results revealed an average increase of 29% in the levels of telomerase. An increase in telomerase activity can be related to decrease in bad LDL cholesterol. It was also found to decrease in one measure namely onset of intrusive thoughts or stress.

DNA residing at the end of chromosomes are capped and protected by telomers. These in turn are lengthened and repaired by telomerase. With age telomers are known to shorten in length making the cells more susceptible to dying. Aging and diseases in people are primarily caused by damage and death of these cells. Shorter-than-average telomers may be linked to several factors like smoking, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.

In addition, according to the researchers, shortened telomeres could be associated with risk of disease and preterm death in numerous types of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

The study is published in the Lancet Oncology.