There’s a measurement that shows which foods will make you “biologically” younger and which can age you more quickly.
That measurement is the length of your telomeres.1
A new study, presented at this year’s European and International Conference on Obesity, and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, has confirmed a direct line between eating too many processed foods and the length of your telomeres.1
Telomeres are the protective caps at the ends of each of your chromosomes.
Simply put, the longer your telomeres are, the younger your cells behave; but the shorter they are, the more vulnerable you become to “old age” and the “diseases of aging” – like cancer, heart disease, hypertension, and Alzheimer’s, as well as diabetes, depression and obesity.
The problem is, a typical diet is loaded with dangerous amounts of processed foods.
Today, most Americans consume meat that comes from sickly, grain-fed animals that have never seen a green pasture or felt rays of sunshine in their unhappy, short lives.
And as you know, most vegetables, breads, pastas and other processed non-meat products are packed with unnatural refined starches and sugars, and come from industrialized, pesticide-laden, genetically modified crops grown on land that’s been stripped of nutritional value.
The researchers from the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, found that three or more servings of so-called “ultra-processed foods” doubled your risk of shortened telomeres.
Typical ultra-processed foods include a vast array of convenience items, such as: deli meats and hotdogs; instant soups and noodles; packaged bread and buns; snacks like chips, cookies, and pastries; soda and energy drinks; as well as sweetened fruit, yogurts, and breakfast cereals – even those marked as “healthy.”
These aren’t real foods. They are an industrially manufactured concoction of cheap oils, fats, sugars and modified starch, and contain little, if any, whole, natural ingredients. They also usually include artificial flavorings, aromas, colorings, emulsifiers, preservatives, and other additives that increase shelf life and profit margins – but reduce human life.
My advice is to start by cutting back – or better yet, avoid all together – convenience foods, takeout foods and ready meals.
If you want to enjoy the kind of primal health your body was built for – the first step is simply to eat naturally.
Focus all of your meals around high-quality protein. I always recommend eating whole foods, pastured beef, lamb, chicken and other properly raised, organic foods. Fruits and vegetables, not grains or treats, should make up the bulk of your carbohydrates.
Grass-fed red meat with organic fruit and vegetables is one of the most nutritious and balanced meals you can eat.
This will have a dramatic effect on your health – and the length of your telomeres.
Another simple but powerful way to protect your telomeres is to boost your vitamin C intake.
I’m sure you already know vitamin C is good for you. You need it for normal growth, development and the repair of tissues. And it’s a crucial antioxidant.
Along with guinea pigs, fruit bats and gorillas – humans are among the few species on the planet that do not produce vitamin C in their own bodies.
That doesn’t mean we don’t need it. It means we evolved in an environment that was so abundant in vitamin C, we didn’t need to make it. The problem is, we no longer live in the environment we evolved for.
Studies confirm that raising the level of vitamin C in the cells slows down the shortening of telomeres by up to 62%.2,3
In another study, vitamin C slowed telomere shortening and also increased cellular lifespan.4
You’ll find vitamin C in a wide array of foods, including oranges, strawberries, kale, acerola cherries, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, parsley, bell peppers, guava and papaya.
But for telomere maintenance and repair, you’ll have to take a supplement. I recommend 1,000 mg three times per day – and take it with food to avoid an upset stomach.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD, CNS
1. Alonso-Pedrero L, et al. “Ultra-processed food consumption and the risk of short telomeres in an elderly population of the Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra (SUN) Project.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 111, Issue 6, June 2020, Pages 1259–1266.
2. Furumoto K. et al. “Age-dependent telomere shortening is slowed down by enrichment of intracellular vitamin C via suppression of oxidative stress.” Life Science 1998, vol. 63, no. 11 pp. 935-48.
3. Shen J, et al. “Telomere length, oxidative damage, antioxidants and breast cancer risk.”
Int J Cancer. 2009 Apr 1; 124(7):1637-43.
4. Xu Q, et al. “Multivitamin use and telomere length in women.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jun;89(6):1721-2.