Step away from those anti-aging pills, creams and expensive cosmetics. A new study has revealed that all it takes to reverse the signs of aging at a cellular level is a healthy diet, stress management and moderate exercise. That certainly makes life a tad easier (and cheaper) now, doesn’t it?
The small, exploratory study, which is apparently the first of its kind, reports BusinessWeek, centered on exploring how lifestyle changes effect telomere lengths (telomeres are the ends of chromosomes that are linked to aging and help protect the chromosomal body). The study was published in Lancet Oncology and was conducted by Dean Ornish, the founder of the Preventative Medicine Research Institute, and Elizabeth Blackburn, who shared the Nobel Prize in medicine in 2009, among other researchers.
Telomere lengths are known to shorten as people (and other animals) age. Additional factors, like unhealthy habits, can contribute to a decrease in telomere lengths as well.
“Smoking makes your telomeres shorter, and emotional stress is associated with shorter telomeres, and lack of exercise,” Ornish said to NPR. “And we know that shorter telomeres are associated with an increased risk of many chronic diseases and a shorter lifespan.”
Ornish was intrigued by this phenomenon and thought that if bad habits can make telomeres shorter, then healthly habits must help keep them intact.
The study consisted of two groups of older men with low-risk prostate cancer, reports Today. 35 total men participated in the study that lasted for five years from 2003 to 2007. 25 of these men made up the control group while 10 of them adopted Ornish’s healthy regimen.
“[The healthy regimen] included a whole foods, low-fat, plant-based diet that’s also low in refined carbohydrates,” said Ornish via NPR. “Walking for a half an hour a day. Doing various stress management techniques, including yoga and meditation, for an hour a day. And spending more time with their loved ones, including friends and family.”
So what did this study uncover? For the most part, the men who followed the healthy regimen actually lengthened their telomeres by about 10 percent whereas the men who did not adopt a healthy lifestyle had telomeres that were about three percent shorter.
“Taken as a whole, this is really the first study showing that any intervention may reduce cellular aging,” Ornish told NBC News. “I think these findings are almost certainly not restricted to men with prostate cancer.”
It is not yet clear if the telomere lengthening seen in the study actually adds years to one’s life. The study’s authors admit that more research needs to be done on the topic and that a larger, more randomized group should be studied. But, according to TIME, studies of human cell cultures have shown that people with longer telomeres have healthier cells as they are able to divide for longer periods of time.
Ornish’s latest research study marks the beginning of exciting new discoveries and at the very least, shows us that a healthy lifestyle made up of a plant-based diet, moderate exercise and stress reduction techniques, like yoga and meditation, can have positive effects on our body.
Image source: Stan Dalone / Flickr