Is there a link between telomeres and dietary fiber?

New evidence published in Archives of Internal Medicine has it that eating more dietary fiber, particularly from whole grains, could lead to a longer life. The large study found a high-fiber diet reduced risk of heart disease and cancer, as well as infectious and respiratory illnesses.

This is great news for those eating diets high in fiber. What’s also interesting is that another reason why dietary fiber is protective to health is because of its influence on telomeres. Telomeres are the protective caps at the end of chromosomes, and their length is considered the closest way to measure lifespan in humans.

As reported in a prospective cohort study published in the March 2010 issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN), telomere length is positively associated with higher fiber intake in women. Dietary fiber from whole grains appears to provide the strongest benefit.

In addition, in the AJCN study, the researchers found telomere length was negatively associated with increased waist circumference and higher intake of omega-6 fatty acids in the diet.

Because the study was only observational, the authors reported that further investigation is necessary to further illuminate the link between dietary fiber and telomere length.

Whole grains examples are rolled oats, buckwheat, whole wheat, and wild rice. The grains contain the entire grain kernel, which include the bran, germ and endosperm. Less than 5 percent of Americans consume the minimum recommended amount of whole grains, which is about 3 ounce-equivalents per day, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Americans barely receive half the amounts of dietary fiber recommended daily. How much dietary fiber is enough? The recommended amounts are 25 grams of fiber for women and 38 grams of fiber for men.
The AJCN study was among the first to document the relationship between diet and telomere length. The authors of the study concluded that the results provided more support that an improved diet and lifestyle would indeed help to slow the aging process.

"Telomere shortening is accelerated by oxidative stress and inflammation, and diet affects both of these processes," the authors report.

Studies have also found that the following changes in diet and lifestyle are all positively associated with telomere length:
  •  not smoking
  • exercising regularly
  • maintaining a normal body weight
  • healthy management of stress
  • consuming sufficient long-chain omega-3 fatty acids from fish weekly
  • maintaining a healthy vitamin D status
  • consuming a quality multivitamin daily
  • consuming antioxidants such as CoQ10 and green tea
Sources:

Park Y, Subar AF, Hollenbeck A, Schatzkin A. Dietary Fiber Intake and Mortality in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. Arch Intern Med 2011.
Cassidy A, De V, I, Liu Y et al. Associations between diet, lifestyle factors, and telomere length in women. Am J Clin Nutr 2010;91:1273-80.

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