Lifestyle changes may turn back the biological clock, and reverse aging on a cellular level, new evidence shows. In a pilot study, researchers found that men who ate a better diet, exercised moderately and led a less stressful lifestyle over a few years, had an increase in the length of their telomeres — the caps at the ends of chromosomes that protect them from deterioration. In the study, 10 men were asked to adopt a plant-based diet, do moderate exercise and stress-reducing activities such as meditation and yoga.
In the group who made lifestyle changes, telomere length increased significantly, by an average of 10 percent, but in the control group, telomere shortened by an average of 3 percent, according to the study published Monday (Sept.
Telomeres are often likened to the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces that keeps them from unraveling.
The discovery of telomere function in cell aging, along with the enzyme that builds telomeres won the 2009 Nobel Prize in medicine for three scientists, including Elizabeth Blackburn, also of UCSF, who also worked on the new study.

Exactly how lifestyle changes may affect telomere length is not known, the researchers said.
The results also showed a clear trend: the more positive changes the participants made to their lifestyles, the greater the increase in their telomere length. The number of participants was too small to prove a cause and effect relationship, the researchers said.
Larger trials are needed to see whether lifestyle changes could significantly reduce people's risk of dying early, and contracting chronic diseases, Ornish said. Bahar Gholipour is a staff reporter for Live Science covering neuroscience, odd medical cases and all things health.
Dean Ornish, clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

Telomere length is controlled by multiple mechanisms, including the activity of its enzyme, telomerase. It is likely that the findings about lifestyle changes extend to other groups of people as well, they said. However, despite the small size of the study, the difference between groups was highly significant, they said. She has worked as a research assistant at the Laboratoire de Neurosciences Cognitives at ENS.

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