Transcript: Research Into Reversing Aging
All right, let me close out with one final round. First, a bit of background. Each one of us has 46 strands of DNA in each of our cells, coiled into chromosomes. At the tips of each chromosome, at the end of each DNA strand, there’s a cap, like the tip of a shoelace, which keeps our DNA from unraveling and fraying. That cap is called a telomere.
Every time our cells divide, though, a bit of that cap is lost. And when it’s completely gone, the cell stops dividing, or dies. So telomeres have been thought of as kind of our life “fuse.” They start shortening as soon as we’re born, and when they’re gone, we’re gone. In fact, forensic scientists can take DNA from a bloodstain, and tell you how old the person was, based on how long the telomeres are.
The thought is, if we can slow down this ticking clock, slow down this shortening, we may be able to slow down aging and live longer. So, what do we have to do? Stop smoking—#1—which has been shown to significantly eat away our protective telomeres. But is there anything in our diet that’s accelerating the process, speeding up aging? We didn’t know, until last year.
120-food-item questionnaire. Two foods were associated with telomere shortening—accelerated aging; you tell me which ones. In alphabetical order: coffee, fried foods, high-fat dairy, non-fried fish, processed meat, red meat, refined grains, or high fructose corn syrup-containing soda. I’ll give you a hint; one of them was processed meat. But which was the other one?
It was the fish, nipping at our DNA. Eating fish appeared to age people’s DNA six years, and processed meat 14 years, in terms of how short the telomeres were of fish- and lunch-meat-eaters.
So, fish and bacon appear to speed aging up. But is there any way to slow aging down, or even actually turn back the cellular clock, and actually repair and lengthen our telomeres back up? Yes, but it appears we have to eat vegan.
Dr. Dean Ornish wasn’t satisfied with just reversing heart disease and cancer, so now he’s trying his hand at reversing aging. There’s a tree, called a bristle cone pine, which is the oldest living thing on earth. There’s one in California that started growing around the time the Egyptian pyramids were being built, about 5,000 years ago. And the tree is still going strong. Scientists found an enzyme in its roots called telomerase, which could actually rebuild the telomeres, and humans have the enzyme, too.
The problem is that no one had ever found a way to boost its activity. But that’s because no one had ever tried a whole foods, plant-based diet before. In a study funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, Ornish found that after just three months of a whole foods, plant-based diet—along with exercise—one could significantly boost telomerase activity.
The accompanying editorial celebrated this breakthrough, and hoped that this “exciting outcome…[would] encourage people to adopt a healthy lifestyle in order to avoid or combat cancer and age-related diseases.”
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.
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