Disclosure: I took the TeloYears test based on my own research and without a brand partnership. However, I do have affiliate links within this article. If you click on this link to purchase a TeloYears test, I receive a small commission which I use to help maintain this blog.
I recently took the TeloYears test to measure the average length of my telomeres and wanted to share my results with you.
What are telomeres?
Telomere research is at the forefront of the scientific and biohacking community as one of the few proposed biomarkers (or, measurements) for longevity and health. They are often described as the shoelace caps at the ends of your chromosomes that guard your DNA from damage (a key driver of aging). In reality, these shoelace caps are simply a repeating sequence of genes that tends to be longer when we're younger, and grow shorter with age.
The longer your telomeres are, generally, the more youthful you are and the greater protection you will have against the ravages of aging. This includes keeping you safe from chronic diseases like cancer and neurodegenerative conditions, as well as accelerated skin aging. (R) Longer telomeres have also been associated with greater volume of the hippocampus, the vulnerable memory center of the brain. (R)
With all that is at risk, why aren’t we monitoring our telomeres as closely as we monitor blood pressure and blood sugar—especially since a growing body of research suggests that we can have a positive impact on our telomere length? This is why I took the TeloYears test. But before I share my results, here are the top 4 ways you can increase your telomere length.
1. Reduce and control stress
Is your life stressful? Constant connectivity, social media, and productivity expectations increasing your heart rate and providing more than a little anxiety? You are not alone. The American Psychological Association reports that between August 2016 and January 2017, the overall average reported stress level of Americans rose from 4.8 to 5.1, on a scale where 1 means little or no stress and 10 means a great deal of stress. This represents the first significant increase in the 10 years since the APA began the survey. (R)
There are multiple studies that directly correlate chronic stress to the shortening of telomeres. (R) The good news is this type of stress is something you can control.
Mindfulness and mediation is an inexpensive and powerful way to manage and thereby reduce stress on a daily basis. In a recent study by Georgetown University Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry, researchers kept track of participants’ stress responses by monitoring levels of the stress hormone ACTH and the inflammatory proteins IL-6 and TNF-α. Those who practiced meditation and mindfulness showed big drops in these markers on the second test, while those not practicing meditation showed modest rises in the same markers. Both IL-6 and TNF-α are positively associated with shorter telomeres. (R, R)
Meditation has also been shown to increase activity of the enzyme telomerase, which protects and lengthens telomeres. (R)
2. Get some sun (or consider a vitamin D supplement)
Vitamin D status has been associated with longer telomeres. In one compelling twin study, sisters with higher levels of vitamin D had longer telomeres, correlating with 5 years of reduced cellular aging, even though both sisters were obviously the same chronological age. (R)
Vitamin D is created in our bodies via our skins exposure to the UVB rays of the sun, but despite how easy this seems, the majority of the population is vitamin D deficient. The exposure you need to achieve healthy levels varies from person to person. People with darker skin tones, those who are overweight, live in northern latitudes, and older people are at the highest risk for deficiency.
If you can't seem to work adequate sun exposure into your routine, fear not—vitamin D3 supplement users were also found to have longer telomeres than nonusers in the same study mentioned above. (R)
3. Improve your cardiorespiratory fitness
Exercise not only helps you maintain a healthy weight, it also keeps your cells young. In one 2009 study by German scientists, the length of middle-aged runners' telomeres were compared to sedentary, age-matched controls. The runners' telomeres were, on average, about 75% longer. (R) They were actually close, lengthwise, to those of runners in their 20s, reduced by only about 10%! The researchers noted that exercise was associated with a marked increase in telomerase activity: It was 2.5 times more active in young athletes, and 1.8 times more active in middle-aged athletes.
In a separate study, VO2 Max, which is a measure of cardiorespiratory fitness, was strongly correlated with telomere length: Better fitness, longer telomeres. (R) But what is the most efficient way of boosting VO2 Max? When young men did high-intensity interval training (3x20-second ‘all-out’ cycling with each cycle followed by 2 minutes of low intensity cycling) for a mere 10 minutes, 3x/week, they boosted their VO2 Max by about 20%. This improvement was on par with that seen in exercisers who cycled at a more moderate pace, for 45 steady minutes, 3x/week.
The takeaway: Boosting VO2 Max needn't necessarily come in the form of long runs. This news is welcome, since it has also been observed that excessive exercise (such as half marathon running) can lead to transient increases in single strand DNA breaks in peripheral blood cells. (R) As important as exercise for longevity, choosing the right types of exercise, and of course recovery, may be just as important.
4. Diet Is Key
As you already know, the importance of diet is a cornerstone of my philosophy for optimal brain health and performance. Diet may also play a key role in improving your telomeres. While diet/telomere research is in its infancy, here are some basic diet recommendations linked in studies to longer telomere length.
Consume a diet that minimizes inflammation. While there isn't one-size fits all diet for everyone, I recommend a diet that is rich in nutrient-dense, antioxidant-rich foods (R), such as dark leafy greens, nuts, eggs, fatty fish, low sugar fruits, and properly-raised sources of meat (organic, grass-fed, etc.), low or free of grains, and especially free of added sugars, refined carbohydrates, and fruit juices. (R)
Avoid processed meat. An inverse association has been made between processed meat consumption and telomere length. (R) Studies like this can not prove causality, but in general, low quality meat products (which include processed meats) are not a good choice for health and may promote inflammation.
Eat more nuts and seeds. Consumption of nuts and seeds accounts for meaningful decreases in cellular aging. Nut and seed intake was positively and linearly associated with telomere length such that adults of the same age had more than 1.5 years of reduced cell aging if they consumed 5% of their total energy from nuts and seeds. (R)
- Take a multi-vitamin. Nutrient deficiencies can lead to premature telomere shortening. A good multivitamin (such as Pure Encapsulations' ONE)—while not a replacement for a nutrient-dense diet—can ensure that many of your boxes are checked, and one study found that multivitamin use was associated with longer telomeres (multivitamin users are also more likely to live a healthy lifestyle). (R)
My TeloYears results
I sent my blood sample in to TeloYears one week before my 35th birthday. According to my results, I have telomeres that look more similar to a 27 year old than a 35 year old. My telomeres are longer than 95% of other males my age.
While I am very pleased with this result (as it confirms my belief that I am currently eating a near-optimal diet with near-optimal lifestyle practices), I'd like to maintain my youthful cellular age for as long as possible, or even reduce it. I plan on keeping tabs on this, and re-checking annually.
If you are interested in taking the test, click here and be sure to tell me your results in the comments below or on Facebook!