We all know that bad lifestyle choices can lead to premature ageing, but does the opposite also hold true? According to new scientific research, an active lifestyle could be the key to eternal youth, with ageing reversed on a cellular level. In other words, healthy people not only look better and live longer, they also age more slowly. (Time to renew that gym membership!)
Youthful face picture from Shutterstock
In the first pilot study of its kind, a team of US researchers have shown how comprehensive lifestyle changes may increase the length of telomeres; the DNA-protein complexes at the ends of chromosomes that control cell ageing.
The study analysed a group of ten men, half of whom followed a program of comprehensive lifestyle changes encompassing diet, activity, stress management, and social support. The other half underwent active surveillance without altering their lifestyles.
After five years, the reseachers took blood samples and compared relative telomere length and telomerase enzymatic activity per viable cell with those at baseline, and assessed their relation to the degree of lifestyle changes. They found that telomere length increased in the lifestyle group but decreased in the control group.
When data from the two groups were combined, adherence to lifestyle changes was significantly associated with relative telomere length after adjustment for age and the length of follow-up. We also found a correlation between the degree of adherence to the lifestyle changes and the extent of change in relative telomere length.
It is thought that these findings may have the potential to reverse ageing on a cellular level. Additionally, unhealthy lifestyle factors related to diet and nutrition (including smoking, consumption of processed meat, and high body-mass index) can speed up the ageing process.
According to the report, circulating vitamin D, multivitamin supplementation, and dietary intake of vitamins C and E can all assist in increasing relative telomere length. However, the report also acknowledges that further investigation in randomised trials in larger and different populations are needed to confirm their findings.