A study led by Dr. Dean Ornish followed 35 men with low-risk prostate cancer for five years. Ten of the men were given a special lifestyle plan with weekly instructions for several months, while 25 were informed of the lifestyle changes but not put in special discussion groups or lectures. The lifestyle-change group increased their telomere length by an average of 10 percent, while the control group had a telomere shrinkage of three percent (The Lancet Oncology, published online September 17, 2013).
The program followed by the lifestyle-change group included:
• A low-fat, low-refined carbohydrate diet, with unprocessed, plant-based whole foods;
• Walking for thirty minutes six days a week;
• Managing stress with yoga, meditation, stretching, breathing and relaxation; and
• Attending a support group for one hour each week.
Telomere Length Predicts How Long a Cell Will Live
How long a cell in your body lives is guided by information supplied by chromosomes, a rope-like chain of genetic material called DNA. Single cells reproduce by dividing everything inside them to form two cells. That means that the chromosomes have to split in two to supply a new chromosome for each of the two new cells formed by cell division.
The ends of each chromosome have a cap called a telomere to protect the chromosome ends from being destroyed by sticking to each other. Telomeres are like the tips of shoelaces that are placed there to keep the ends of shoelaces from fraying. Every time a cell divides to form two cells, pieces of telomere break off to shorten the telomere. Eventually the telomere becomes so short that it does not protect the ends of the DNA in chromosomes from sticking together and destroying each other to kill the cell. So the longer the length of a telomere, the longer the cell can live and divide.