If you missed the boat this Southern California duo of famous people did a small study using a dietary modification to measure telomerase activation in peripheral white blood cells- the ones we usually look at for telomere length.
They found that telomerase activity increased in those people who adhered to both the diet and life style changes which included a vegetable rich diet and meditation. Recently after waiting 5 years to see what developed they got as many people from the original study back as they could and this time looked at telomere length, which they reported as “relatively increased” in the group of 10 men that were still adherent versus the 25 that were not practicing their interventions.
As an aside these men had low grade prostate cancer. There is no reason to suspect that healthy interventions in this group could not directly translate into meaningful results for completely healthy men and women.
This has been interpreted as “diet and lifestyle changes can increase telomere length”. Sadly that is a bit of big jump. Trust me I want to believe it because it represents the bulk of what we wrote about 3 years ago in The Immortality Edge. But as authors of the study plainly state: this is a pilot study and requires confirmation with larger randomized placebo controlled studies.
The best things that can be gotten from this study are:
1) Eating healthy is likely to make you more healthy and might make you live a little longer.
2) The findings are compelling enough even if there are serious flaws that maybe just maybe enough funds can be generated to do the bigger studies that would prove or disprove the effects on telomeres.
Now comes the part you don’t really want to hear: the limitations of the study.
1) It is really tiny with only 10 people who are able to be included in the intervention group.
2) The measurement of telomere signal ( notice I did not say length because as you’ll see they did not measure length) using the QPCR test, while still considered valid by some , has huge inaccuracies especially in a tiny population and for better or worse looks at “emission of signal” as a surrogate measurement for telomere length. It does not measure the actual telomere length in kilo bases as do the FloFISH and the gold standard in my opinion the HTQFISH. I give them credit for waiting 5 years to compare the analysis but in my opinion the number of people in this study is far far too small to really say anything about telomere length.
3) Lifestyle changes including meditation, diet and exercise have a tendency to increase the number peripheral cells with longer telomeres versus those with shorter telomeres skewing the average measurement towards “longer than before the lifestyle changes”. This does not mean that the cells have longer telomeres than they did 5 years ago. It means there are more of them around with longer telomeres to be measured. Complicated as that sounds it’s a pretty big difference and cannot be accounted for by the technology they used.
4) The QPCR measurement ignores individual telomere length on individual chromosomes. It is an average measurement of all of them and does not look at critically short telomeres. While an argument rages between people whose agendas are directed at selling different kinds of tests, and not everyone agrees that the percentage of short telomeres is all that important, the percentage of short telomeres is what drives the aging and disease processes. This can only be measured by using the Life length assay. I can also tell you that hell will freeze over before all the scientists in the field accept this as fact and accept the new assay as the gold standard for all kinds of reasons which have nothing to do with science!
Finally there have been a few comments from the “anti-TA-65” gallery stating that this study proves what TA Sciences have never proven- that they can turn on telomerase in people. While I understand the criticism and have information that for the same reasons as the last sentence in #4 will likely not become public for a long time I can tell you that I have done everything in the Immortality Edge for at least the past 5 years and until I started taking TA-65 on a daily basis my telomere length just got shorter and shorter. Since I have started it they have gotten progressively longer (reduced percentage of short telomere s and mean telomere length) as have those of most of the people I have on TA-65 who have been tested.
Understand this is not a study, it is my observation. There is a study going on now that will prove exactly what I just said but the results will not be published until 2015 at this rate. That is the way science works.
We do not yet honestly know the effects of TA-65 on a large diverse population. We only know that in the study published in Rejuvenation Research in 2010 clinical end points like blood pressure, insulin and glucose, inflammatory markers, and immune system function all improved. Frankly that may be even more important than telomere length since it represents what all of us are looking for first- better health. Those end points were not (yet) measured in the Ornish study although it should be easy enough to do.
We do know for sure that eating better makes us healthier and probably if we have a chronic disease like prostate cancer may add some years to our lives. But we also know from all of human history you cannot eat your way to truly long life. Adele Davis would have to agree with me rest her soul!
We similarly don’t know if TA-65 alone will change the future of longevity and health span in humans although the very preliminary evidence is just as intriguing as the findings of the Ornish study.
I stand by what we said in The Immortality Edge 3 years ago- if you can do BOTH.