Veggie-Heavy Stress Reduction Regimen Shown to Modify Cell Aging

Veggie-Heavy Stress Reduction Regimen Shown to Modify Cell Aging

The fountain of youth may simply be a healthy diet and reduced stress after all, not a magic pill or expensive cosmetics. Comprehensive lifestyle changes, including more fruit and vegetables as well as meditation and yoga, were shown to reverse signs of aging at the cellular level for the first time in a study published today. Adopting a diet rich in unprocessed foods combined with moderate exercise and stress management over five years increased the length of telomeres, the ends of chromosomes linked to aging, according to a study of 35 men published in the Lancet medical journal. No previous study has shown the effect of lifestyle changes on telomere length, the authors said.The research, led by Dean Ornish, founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, adds to evidence of the benefits of healthy habits. Ornish’s Lifestyle Heart Trial, published in 1998, showed a reversal of coronary heart disease over five years. Patients who receive 72 hours of training from medical professionals on Ornish’s program for reversing heart disease have been reimbursed by Medicare since January 2011.

“So often, people think it has to be a new drug or laser, something really high-tech and expensive, to be powerful,” Ornish said in a telephone interview. “Our studies are showing that simple changes in our lifestyle have powerful impacts in ways that we can measure.”

Ornish collaborated on the study with Elizabeth Blackburn, who shared the Nobel Prize in medicine in 2009 with Carol Greider and Jack Szostak for research on the telomerase “immortality enzyme,” which prevents telomeres from being shaved off.

Stress Link

He was inspired by Blackburn’s research showing that the shortening of telomeres, and therefore aging, is accelerated by emotional stress such as that experienced by women who have parents with Alzheimer’s disease or children with autism.

“My general experience is that things in biology go both ways,” said Ornish, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “If bad things make them shorter, maybe good things make them longer. So we had lunch together and I said, ’Why don’t we find out?’”

The study included 35 men with low-risk prostate cancer enrolled between 2003 and 2007. Ten men adopted the lifestyle changes, while 25 underwent active surveillance as a control group.

The diet encouraged in the lifestyle change group was largely a whole foods, plant-based regimen of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, with few refined carbohydrates, Ornish said. It wasn’t strictly vegetarian or vegan.

Eating Freedom

“Most people want to feel free, and as soon as you tell someone, don’t ever eat this, always eat that, that’s hard to sustain,” Ornish said. “If you indulge yourself one day, just eat healthier the next.”

In addition to changes in diet, the program included 30 minutes of walking six days a week; 60 minutes of daily stress management, mostly in the form of yoga and meditation; and a 60-minute support group session once a week.

Telomere length increased among the men in the lifestyle intervention group and decreased in the control group. As telomeres become shorter, cells age and die more quickly. The study authors said they are “rather like the tips of shoelaces that keep them from fraying.”

The study is limited by the small size and by the fact that it wasn’t randomized, which increases the possibility of unknown sources of bias, the authors said. The results suggest larger randomized studies in different populations would be useful, they said.

Ornish is the author of six best-selling books, including “Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease”; “Eat More, Weigh Less”; and “The Spectrum.” He is a physician consultant to former President Bill Clinton and was appointed by President Barack Obama to the White House Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health.

In July, Ornish entered into a partnership with Healthways Inc. (HWAY), a disease and wellness management company, to help meet “overwhelming demand” for his Medicare-reimbursed program, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Makiko Kitamura in London at mkitamura1@bloomberg.net

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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