JED WIGHTMAN PERFORMANCE/SPORTS NUTRITIONIST ADVANTAGE FITNESS LTD
This article has been written for Canadian Physique Alliance – Jan/Feb 2022 Edition
We age, it’s simple (we think) we go through Life with the precluded notion that as time goes by we become slower, less capable, weaker, fatter less cognizant. The cultural and worldly identity to “onset of aging”, we get old and what was once shiny rusts. We believe we have peaked in our 20s and 30s, what society says strongly influences us after that shininess fades; we accept that this is the path of life, and we capitulate to this truth.
Remember that old but beautiful mint condition ‘57 Chevy that your grandfather had or maybe you knew someone who had a classic car from the same era. There weren’t many, only one or two from that era that was around then, that still looked all shiny and new. Why was that? Well because they were pristinely maintained. Everything went into the originals to keep them that way, a lifelong painstaking effort. For the classics around today in most cases they are rebuilt, there has been much work put into that vehicle to keep it looking the way that it came out of the factory, all those years ago. Think about us as that car, some of us out there have been attempting to maintain our “peak” in very healthy and very conscious ways, whereas others have started the path later in life, to rebuild. Whatever our process, all of us are capable of knowing more of what we can do to continue to heal, rebuild and maintain our “newness”. However the inevitable “onset of ageing” has its hands on us, we cannot escape death, but we can most certainly live stronger, longer healthier and all around better.
There is a key factor that holds a major role of this rebuilding to maintain a healthy strong body, a snappy cognizant mind and an ever-resilient immune system. This has been under much study, and until recently, largely overlooked. Welcome Telomeres.
What are Telomeres
Telomeres are the caps on the end of human chromosomes, like the caps on the end of shoelaces; these proteins protect the ends of DNA strands from shortening and fraying.
Scientists link longer telomeres to longevity, lower risk of disease, and better brain health.
Telomeres become shorter over time as aging cells can’t replicate correctly, as a result, these cells lose the ability to function well, which speeds up the aging process.
Unfortunately, we cannot escape aging and shorter telomeres are a part of this process. Additionally, inactivity, poor diet, and stress can cause your telomeres to deteriorate faster.
How can we increase the length and the strength of our telomeres? What can we do to tap into this veritable fountain of youth? It’s not beyond reach that’s for sure, there is much that we can do, whether it’s through lifestyle choices, applied nutrition or critical involvement. This is what we need to do for our body and what our body can do for us in return. We need to do as much as we can to help these little bad boys out, these are our soldiers in our fight against “the onset of aging”.
First and Foremost is nutrition, what we eat and how it affects us is our foundation. A recent study in 2018 shows a direct link between consuming certain foods and the length, strength and longevity of our telomeres.
This study cited the emphasis on whole non-processed food, as well as eliminating simple refined sugars or enriched flour. We already know that the consumption of processed, simple sugar, as little as 40g (one can of soda) is enough to shut down our immune system for up to 24 hours. Specifically our bodies’ ability to produce NK T, B cells and Lymphocytes that protect us from both viral and cellular diseases, as well as bacterial infection. Refined, processed, simple sugars, high fructose corn syrup and equivalent sugar sources, promote huge inflammatory responses and raise acidity, lowering our alkaline ph priority.
Omega fats, fresh vegetables including deep, green colourful veggies and seaweed (chlorophyll is key), as well as complete proteins. Our body uses these important amino acids for nearly everything inside our body which is our temple. Pair these with essential fats, essential fatty acid, and omega 3 primarily. These all have a significant effect on the length abs strength of our telomeres but also a huge impact on DNA synthesis repair and metabolism within the cells. There is a profound link between higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and telomeres, long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids are important but fatty acids are absolutely essential for our bodies cell growth and survival, providing energy and forming important components of cell membranes.
These components in cell membrane phospholipid bilayers, with EPA and DHA (what omega 3 converts to) are concentrated in Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. These are important structural components in cell membrane phospholipid bilayers. EPA and DHA concentrated in synaptic membranes in the brain, (side note: we need them for snappy brain function). Also, our cells lipid bilayer is made of phospholipids, if we don’t get enough, our cells do not have the materials needed for healing and recovery, these lipid layer fluidity to properly perform the necessary roles set out for them. Phosphatidylcholine as a supplement and foods rich in this phospholipid is a very important part, of the fight to protect and produce healthier more lengthy telomeres. Circling back, everything we can do to lessen prolonged inflammation means slower telomere decline, so our eating patterns are as important as nutrient components and synergy (more on eating patterns to follow).
Speaking of nutrient components, antioxidants are a huge part of this equation. The little guys that scavenge free radicals (reactive atoms with unpaired electron), reducing inflammation and protecting cell mitochondria. So adding in supplements and foods that are rich in antioxidants include vitamin C, E, GSH Glutathione are (one of our most potent antioxidants) alongside selenium. Selenium helps us to recycle glutathione inside and outside the cell, this prolongs the antioxidants’ sustainability. Polyphenols and, fibre (also remember from my previous articles how much actual insoluble fibre we need a day). Insoluble fibre for anti-inflammation, insulin sensitivity, digestion and colon cleansing across the board is yet another essential part, and tantamount to the benefit for telomere length and strength.
Processed foods are the enemy; our western dietary pattern consists of more processed foods than ever before. Corn and canola-fed red meat paired with higher sugar content, shortens and weakens telomeres. We eat inflammation and free radical producing materials; we drink insulin resistance and fatty liver disease regularly. The whole way we eat is destroying us from the inside out.
Contrary to our western way of eating, if we compare this diet to a Mediterranean diet, the latter correlates with longer telomeres. We see studies done on simple dietary intake from this part of the world and on its population, and the overwhelming evidence shows lower mortality rates from natural causes and significantly less heart disease, atherosclerosis diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
The simple fact is, foods rich in omega-3‘s, green leafy vegetables, while effectively balancing omega-3 to six ratio and very little processed food (Especially no enriched white flour, no high fructose corn syrup or processed simple sugars of any kind). While incorporating complete proteins from properly sourced materials; free-range protein sources and naturally raised seafood. All of these things we have here in North America are capable of providing the body with the entirety of what it needs. Just put some work in and BOOM! This is the key to the preservation of telomere length, which in turn enhances lifespan and strength.
Above I mentioned eating patterns and habits, a fundamentally important role in this equation, so of equal importance is eating strategies and tactics. We all know eating smaller portions over multiple meals is great for performance recovery and metabolism. Yet an even more detailed strategy is to include intermittent fasting, this is currently of huge popularity in our nutrition and fitness world.
We must understand the powerful impact to the regeneration our body goes through by intermittent fasting, it ultimately takes stress off our body’s organs, digestion all while rejuvenating the micro villi in our small intestine. This is most important to allowing autophagy to do it’s very necessary job. A great way of understanding “intermittent fasting-induced autophagy” is this, as we age, we have a build-up of damaged, organic cellular materials or ‘organic stuff ’ which amasses as cell-damaging waste products needing to be rid from the body, a huge contributing factor to disease and chronic illness. Think of autophagy like quality control for cellular cleanliness and cell health, fasting promotes our bodies to literally eat the waste and therefore cleaning itself. Fasting from last meal to first meal (at least 12 hours between feedings), especially through the night of rest and sleep when our body is at its highest state of recovery.
For the athlete, this is “effective and proper intermittent fasting“.
Many recent studies indicate fasting, and fasting- diets benefit lifespan of the most basic approach, for the athlete especially. We must be tactical and strategic in how we apply this, you can refer to my previous article on intermittent fasting for the athlete, “The fasting and the spurious”.
So our TREMENDOUS TELOMERES are worth helping out in all the possible ways we can. There is a myriad of things we are capable of, a whole arsenal if you will, of effective and empowering tools, techniques, food, supplement, and nutrition. This includes habits, exercise and rest strategies to battle the inevitable ageing process, this also helps with the “onset” of what we consider to be normal illness, disease and degradation. By being critically involved in all aspects of what we put into our body, how we treat ourselves, what our body does for us and what we do for our body, ensures that we are in charge of all the variables. The variables we cannot see coming, like getting hit by a truck, falling off a cliff or having an aneurism, well that’s simply out of our hands. But for the ones we are in control of, we should master. Socrates said “No human being has the right to be as a novice at his or her body”. If we aim for the highest degree of health, longevity and wellness as well as applying ourselves fully, we can all benefit magnificently.