Every day of your life during normal metabolism, your body produces damaging by-products called free radicals. Moreover, any inflammation that is present within your body results in formation of these free radicals, and the inflammation in turn results in destruction of your cells with production of even more of these harmful free radicals. These particles can damage cell walls and DNA. To prevent this process from happening, you can ingest antioxidants which neutralize these free radicals before they have a chance to damage your other tissues.

There is a direct relationship between the length of your telomeres and the antioxidant activity your body has to fight off free radicals, as noted in this chart. Studies have demonstrated that the more antioxidants you have in your body, the longer your telomere length. This is an important concept to help preserve your body so you don’t “age” rapidly.

Telomeres are the ends of your chromosomes that direct the reformation of the DNA once it splits into two cells. Every time it splits, the telomere gets shorter and this is a sign of aging of the cells. If we could prevent this shortening from occurring, perhaps we could live longer and with less degenerative conditions that “age” us prematurely.

Your cells have the ability to produce an enzyme which lengthens telomeres. This ability is locked in your DNA. If you release this ability, the DNA produces this enzyme called telomerase. The telomerase then rebuilds the length of your telomeres. Free radicals have the power to decrease telomerase activity, thus resulting in shorter telomeres. Antioxidants neutralize these free radicals, which are produced by cytokines associated with inflammation.

In “short”,if you inhibit telomerase, you “shorten” your telomeres. Antioxidants help prevent the inhibition of telomerase. Thus, they can help lengthen your telomeres.[1]

There are many compounds that you can take that have antioxidant properties. Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables are loaded with them. Beet juice and pomegranate juice are full of them. Unfortunately most people don’t eat enough of these to give them enough antioxidants to help with telomere length, so you take supplements. Here are some supplements you can take to achieve adequate levels: Vitamin C (1-4 gm per day), Vitamin D (2,000 – 5,000 u per day), Omega 3 FFA (2-3 gm per day), and Resveratrol (250-500 mg per day).

Boost Your Nitric Oxide (NO) Production

NO, or nitric oxide, is a compound found in protein foods and has been shown to do three things: improve the health of your cardiovascular system, lengthen telomeres and fight cancer.

NO is important for your cardiovascular system health. It improves blood flow by relaxing blood vessel walls and it reduces blood pressure. It also helps prevent your arteries from becoming more stiff, changes which could lead to heart disease.

NO can also help maintain your telomere length. A study in Germany demonstrated NO increased telomerase activity in vitro, resulting in lengthening of the telomeres and extending the life of red blood cells.[2] Conversely, if you block NO production, telomeres get shorter.[3]

Longer telomeres means less chance that you will get cancer. In fact, high levels of NO has been shown to decrease cancer cells from dividing and spreading.[4] In one study, low levels of NO showed an increased spread of cancer, while high levels results in cancer cells not surviving long enough to spread.[5]

To get adequate levels of NO, you should do the following:

1) Exercise regularly. Exercise increases NO levels, especially high-intensity, short-duration workouts. It does so by increasing NO synthase, which is an enzyme that increases the production of NO in your blood.

2) Eat food rich in nitrates such as sodium nitrate (not “nitrite”). These include green leafy vegetables, such as lettuce, Swiss chard, arugula, basil, cilantro; and red vegetables such as beets and rhubarb. When you eat beets, the nitrates in it mix with your saliva and mouth bacteria to produce NO. It produces so much NO, that it can even lower your blood pressure within 3-4 hours, an effect that can last up to 24 hours.[6]

3) Take supplements of L-arginine and niacin. These convert to NO in the body. Take at least 500 mg niacin to boost NO activity.

Take Cat’s Claw

A little known herb that most people don’t know about is Cat’s claw. This ancient herb growing in the highland rainforest in South America has been used for medicinal purposes by the natives in Peru for years. It has been used to relieve pain and stop inflammation.

Cat’s claw protects and lengthens telomeres. A small in vitro study showed that cells treated with cat’s claw extract lengthened telomeres and extended the lifespan of cells by 201%.[7] Other clinical studies demonstrated that cat’s claw extract repairs damaged DNA[8] and can do so in the skin plus fight off inflammation at the same time.[9]

Although these were studies performed in the lab, this could have potential benefits to humans. Indeed, studies have shown that cat’s claw can fight cancer[10] and reduce tumors.[11] It activates a substance called caspases, which has been shown to play a critical role in killing cancer cells.[12]

You can take cat’s claw in the form of a capsule or you can eat the inner bark of the tree. You should take around 500 mg per day to reap the benefits from it. Since not too many of those trees are in the U.S., you might want to just take the capsule.

Take certain vitamins to lengthen your telomeres.

[1] Haendeler J, Hoffmann J, Diehl J, Vasa M, Spyridopoulos I, Zeiher A, Dimmeler S. “Antioxidants inhibit nuclear export of telomerase reverse transcriptase and delay replicative senescence of endothelial cells.” Circ Res. 2004;94(6):768-75.
[2] Vasa M, et. al. “Nitric Oxide Activates Telomerase and Delays Endothelial Cell Senescense.” Circulation Research. 2000; 540-542.
[3] Scalera F, et. al. “Endogenous Nitric Oxide Synthesis Inhibitor Asymmertic Dimethyle L-Arginine Accelerates Endothelial Cell Senescence.” Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 2004; 1816-1822.
[4] Xie K et al, “Transfection with the inducible nitric oxide synthase gene suppresses tumorigenicity and abrogates metastasis by K-1735 murine melanoma cells.” J Exp Med. 1995;181(4):1333-43.
[5] Dong Z, Staroselsky A, Qi X, Fidler I. “ Inverse correlation between expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase activity and production of metastasis in K-1735 murine melanoma cells.” Cancer Res. 1994: 54:789-793
[6] Webb. A. et al, “Acute Blood Pressure Lowering, Vasoprotective, and Antiplatelet Properties of Dietary Nitrate via Bioconversion to Nitrite.” Hypertension. 2008; 51: 784-790
[7] Na M, Kim Y, et. al. “Cytoprotective effect on oxidative stress and inhibitory effect on cellular aging of Uncaria sinensis H.” J Ethnopharmacol. 2004;95(2-3):127-32
[8] Sheng Y, Bryngelsson C, Pero R. “Enhanced DNA repair, immune function and reduced toxicity of C-MED-100, a novel aqueous extract from Uncaria tomentosa.” J Ethnopharmacol. 2000;69(2):115-26.
[9] Mammone T, Akesson C, Gan D, Giampapa V, Pero R. “A water soluble extract from Uncaria tomentosa is a potent enhancer of DNA repair in primary organ cultures of human skin.” Phytother Res. 2006;20(3):178-83.
[10] Rinner B, Li Z, Haas H, Siegl V, Sturm S, Stuppner H, Pfragner R. “Antiproliferative and pro-apoptotic effects ofUncaria tomentosa in human medullary thyroid carcinoma cells.” Anticancer Res. 2009;29(11):4519-28.
[11] Dreifuss A, et. al. “Antitumoral and antioxidant effects of a hydroalcoholic extract of cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa) in an in vivo carcinosarcoma model.” J Ethnopharmacol. 2010;130(1):127-33.
[12] Salve P, et. al. “Activation of caspases by cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa): future treatment for cancer.” Journal of Pharmacy Research 2009;Vol. 2 No. 11 pp. 1707-1711.