It sounds like science-fiction, but it is true. Our cells age as we get older. This is reflected on the length of our telomeres, the tips of our chromosomes, which shorten with age. When these telomere caps are gone, the cells can die.
However, lifestyle factors such as non-smoking and the consumption of fruits, vegetables and foods rich in antioxidants in general has been associated with a protective effect for telomeres. This is because these foods boost an enzyme called telomerase which is found in human cells. On the other hand, consumption of refined grains, sugar, meat and dairy has been associated with a shortening of telomeres.
Researchers Dr. Dean Ornish and Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn found that after three months of whole-food, plant-based diet and other healthy lifestyle changes, telomerase activity increased by 30%. After following-up with the participants in the study after 5 years, it was found that their telomeres not only stopped shrinking with age, but they even got longer! Lancet Oncology, which published the paper in 2013*, called it “reversing aging at a cellular level”.
Another reason to eat your 5 portions a day!
* Effect of comprehensive lifestyle changes on telomerase activity and telomere length in men with biopsy-proven low-risk prostate cancer