Health kicks might help you feel better about yourself, but new research suggests that they could actually be reversing ageing at the cellular level, too.
A team of researchers from the University of California found that a strict regime of exercise, diet and meditation provides a genetic effect which equates to reversal of cell ageing. The scientists observed that those subjects who undertook such health kicks gradually experienced a lengthening of their telomeres—the protective caps at the end of chromosomes which prevent the loss of genetic information during cell division—by around ten percent.
The study, published in Lancet Oncology, considered 35 men with prostate cancer. In a group of 10 of the men who switched to a vegetarian diet and undertook a scheduled course of exercise, meditation and yoga, the telomeres were observed to lengthen. Usually, the repetitive sequence of DNA which makes up the telomeres degrade with time. Eventually, when they're no longer left, chromosomes can no longer be replicated accurately. This research suggests that a health kick can serve to lengthen them again.
Of course, the usual caveats apply here: the observed effect is relatively small, and the sample size of the group of people involved in the experiment is also modest. But if the finding can be replicated among a bigger sample, we might yet be able to overcome the effects of telomeres deterioration—and ageing. [Lancet Oncology via BBC]