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article imageHealthy lifestyles may help to protect DNA

By Tim Sandle     Sep 21, 2013 in Health
Diet, exercise, and stress management may help to protect and strengthen DNA and resist the effects of aging, according to a new study.
Increased physical fitness, lower stress, and alter diet have been associated with strengthening DNA, NPR reports. Specifically, the 'healthy lifestyle' has been associated with lengthened telomeres in a small group of men. Telomeres are protective assemblages of DNA and protein at the ends of chromosomes. They guard the chromosomes from disintegration, and shorten with age. Thus Telomere length is considered a marker of cellular health by some medics.
The findings are based on a study reported by Forbes magazine. Scientists recruited men with low-risk prostate cancer to either receive help changing their lifestyles or to be part of a control group and receive no lifestyle intervention. Members of the intervention group eat a low-fat diet high in fruits, vegetables, unrefined grains, and legumes, and received meals during the early months of the study. They engaged in moderate exercise, attended support groups, and were taught stress management techniques, including yoga and meditation.
At the end of a five-year period, 10 men from the intervention group and 25 from the control group provided blood samples, which the researchers used to measure the length of their telomeres. The researchers found significantly longer telomeres in members of the intervention group than in controls.
Whilst the results are interesting, according to the BBC, other experts have said that although the study is intriguing, it is too early to draw any firm conclusions. For instance, Carol Greider of Johns Hopkins University told New Scientist magazine that the researchers measured telomere length using a method of questionable accuracy.
The findings are based on a paper published in the journal The Lancet Oncology. The somewhat long title of the research paper is "Effect of comprehensive lifestyle changes on telomerase activity and telomere length in men with biopsy-proven low-risk prostate cancer: 5-year follow-up of a descriptive pilot study."
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