London: Chromosomes of people who lead a healthy lifestyle do not age as rapidly as those who have a poor diet and take little exercise.
A healthy lifestyle may also slow the process of ageing, according to a study conducted by researcher from the Preventive Medicine Research Institute and published in The Lancet Oncology.
“This might be a powerful motivator for many people to beneficially change their diet and lifestyle,” the researchers said.
The diseases of ageing have been linked to a shortening of chromosome components known as telomeres, which protect the ends of chromosomes and keep the DNA in the middle from being damaged.
Over time, telomeres shorten and both cells and DNA become more vulnerable to various forms of damage. Researchers have speculated that this may be one of the primary mechanisms connected to age-related decline. Shorter telomeres have been correlated with an increased risk of both cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Prior studies have discovered that the telomeres of smokers, the obese and those with sedentary lifestyles tend to be shorter than average. This spurred the researchers to investigate if an improvement in lifestyle could be directly connected to telomere protection.
The researchers recruited 24 men and measured their blood levels of telomerase, an enzyme responsible for repairing and adding to telomeres. They then prescribed a variety of healthy lifestyle and measured telomerase activity again after three months.
The lifestyle changes included a moderate aerobic exercise routine, classes in stress management and relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, a diet high in fruits and vegetables, and supplements of vitamins and fish oil.
By the end of the study, telomerase activity had increased among the participants by an average of 29 percent. The level of telomerase increase was also correlated with a decrease in levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and the frequency of intrusive thoughts (a marker of stress).