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Protecting Your “Genetic Self”—Why Telomere Length Matters

No single health goal is more important than protecting your DNA. Considering that it is very substance of which you’re entirely made, defending your DNA is literally life sustaining. Regular followers of this blog will already be well-versed on the importance of vitamin D for bone health, immune function, mood support and countless other wellness benefits. As it happens, vitamin D also helps protect your DNA — specifically your telomeres.

Telomeres are the end caps of chromosomes, which are composed of DNA. The term “telomere” comes from a combination of the Greek words for end (telos) and part (meros), hence, telomeres are the protective “end-parts” of chromosomes.

The length and integrity of telomeres (genetic end caps) are important determinants of their owner’s longevity and overall health. Think of telomeres as aglets, the plastic-coated tips on shoelaces. Without those tips, shoelaces would be unable to do their job.

In essence, vitamin D can help protect your “genetic self”. Most people work indoors and are rightly concerned about avoiding the skin-damaging effects of excessive sun exposure. However, because the body uses sunlight to synthesize vitamin D, overzealous sun avoidance can result in chronically low levels of this essential nutrient. What’s more, during autumn and winter months, even the most committed sunbathers experience a drop in their vitamin D levels. I counsel patients to measure their vitamin D at the end of summer and also in the middle of winter to make sure they are maintaining sufficient levels, at a minimum of 50 nmol/L.

Over time, aging, free radical damage, pollution, and stress conspire to cause the progressive shortening of telomeres, until they begin to interfere with the efficient and proper replication of DNA.

Researchers in Norway investigated telomere lengths of human white blood cells (leukocytes), as it is known that the shortening of telomeres contributes to genetic instability and an increased risk of cancer. They determined that blood levels of vitamin D (25-OH-Vitamin D) at concentrations equal to or greater than 50 nmol/L appeared optimal. Age, sex, ethnicity, weight, sugar and calorie intake, economic status, dietary supplements, physical activity, and vitamin D blood levels were factored in the equation to determine their impact on telomere length.

Among middle-aged subjects, it was discovered that vitamin D blood levels in the 50 nmol/L or higher range represented an independent factor for telomere length. The conclusion was simple yet powerful: decreased levels of vitamin D were associated with genomic instability due to shortened telomeres.

So, aside from vitamin D supplementation, is there anything more you can do to protect your telomeres and DNA? Yes, and the solution is as straightforward as this: Consume sufficient antioxidants, eat nutritious foods, and supplement your diet with ingredients that defend your genetic wellbeing. Living in a polluted and high-stress world, our bodies are ravaged by more toxins, electromagnetic fields (EMF), hormones, plastics, chemicals, and drugs than ever before in recorded history. We can no longer ignore the fact that our bodies need special assistance of a kind that our parents and grandparents didn’t require, because they lived in a cleaner and less toxic world.

Take-Home Action Steps

• Get your vitamin D levels measured periodically and sustain healthy levels under the guidance of your health care provider.
• Crank up your dietary intake of antioxidants and detoxification-supporting foods. If your diet falls short in these protective factors, supplementation should be strongly considered.
• Minimize stress, drink clean, toxin-free water, get adequate sleep, and avoid excessive exposure to the environmental and chemical stressors that abound in our modern world!


Written by Dr. Chris D. Meletis

The Journal of Nutrition, February 8, 2017



Health Tips On the Go!

Improve Posture

  • 1.Avoid slouching. Be aware of your posture as you walk, sit, and drive, keep shoulders squared and head pulled back and up.

  • 2.Imagine a thread pulling the top of your head toward the ceiling. Visualization can help improve your sense of position.

  • 3.If your job requires you to sit for long periods, take frequent breaks to stand, stretch and shake it out.

  • 4.Maintain a strong core to help support proper posture. Add core-training exercises to your daily routine.

  • 5.A firm mattress and ergonomic pillow help achieve proper back support while you sleep, so you'll stand straighter in the a.m.

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