Many baby boomers have heard of telomeres, a component in DNA, the “key” to anti-aging, and understand what their relationship to aging aging—the longer the telomere, the younger the DNA, and the longer one’s life. Once this is understood, the question becomes, “So how do we lengthen telomeres?” While studies are being conducted in this area in the hopes of developing special supplements and medications that will accomplish this, a study has been published which shows that the simple act of taking a multivitamin daily can in fact significantly reduce shortening of telomeres—by 5.1%.
In my work as an author, researcher, and health advocate, I’ve been recommending daily vitamin supplements for years as a health-promoting habit. Who would have thought the link between taking a daily multivitamin and longevity would one day be so clearly delineated? With the publication of “Multivitamin use and telomere length in women,” in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, boomers have no excuse not to take their vitamins, in particular three specific ones.
Part of the DNA, telomeres are found in every cell in the body. As cells divide, telomeres become shorter, which means that cells get older; unable to provide their normal defense against damaging free radicals and toxins, the result is an increased risk of serious age-related conditions and diseases. When telomeres are totally shortened down, cell division fails to take place and death ensues. On the other hand, lengthening telomeres will lead to a longer, healthier life. The study in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that with daily vitamin supplements, this can be accomplished—but specific ones—Vitamins B12, C, and E—due to the fact that they’re antioxidants, which fight the damaging effects of oxidants, also known as free radicals. Since telomeres are sensitive to oxidative stress, antioxidants help to protect them.
It is suggested that boomers should take Vitamins B12, C, and E regularly in supplement form, but it’s important to also get these in their diet as well. Food sources of Vitamin B12 include salmon, tuna, grass-fed beef, and milk. Vitamin C can be found in produce such as kiwi, strawberry, orange, grapefruit, and red and green bell peppers. Boomers can find Vitamin E in foods such as spinach, broccoli, almonds, peanuts, olive oil, and kiwi.
Even if you’re eating plenty of the foods above, supplements will be able to provide you with the amount of these supplements you’ll need to keep your telomeres long. The following are the minimum daily values recommended for such a purpose: 100 mcg of Vitamin B12, 3,000 mg of non-synthetic Vitamin C, and 200 to 400 IU of vitamin E in mixed tocopherols form. Vitamin E should be taken with food since it’s a fat-soluble supplement, requiring fat in order to be absorbed.
In the published study, these vitamins were taken as a multivitamin, but they can also be taken separately. A multivitamin can be convenient, but it’s important to know what to look for. A study has shown that iron supplements have a shortening effect on telomeres, so avoid purchasing a multivitamin with iron. Most brands of vitamins have much lower amounts of these supplements than what’s recommended for telomere-lengthening; find a multivitamin with at least 100 mcg of B12, 500 mg of vitamin C, and 200 IU of vitamin E. Finally, quality varies among brands and companies, so rather than synthetic forms, look for higher-quality natural forms of the vitamins.
Taking your multivitamin has always seemed like common sense health advice; now there’s scientific evidence that not only does this simple act improve your health—it can lengthen your telomeres and thus your life. Baby boomers will appreciate such an effective anti-aging method at minimum cost and maximum convenience—I know I do.
Xu et al. “Multivitamin use and telomere length in women,” Am J Clin Nutr (March 11, 2009).
L.A. Times: Can taking a multivitamin extend life? http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/booster_shots/2009/05/can-taking-a-multivitamin-extend-life.html
Life Extension: Longer telomeres associated with multivitamin use http://www.lef.org/newsletter/2009/0317_Longer-Telomeres-Associated-with-Multivitamin-Use.htm
From our home to yours, Tina Turbin.