What Are Telomeres & How Do They Effect Ageing?

Fiona Tuck

Nutrition Expert

So what do shoe lace caps, the fountain of youth and Cameron Diaz have in common? Why Telomeres of course. Fiona Tuck , Professional Skincare Expert and Nutritional Medicine Practitioner fills us in on the importance of telomeres and how they effect ageing, so we can start preventative measures now.

cammmImage via pinterest 

There is a lot of noise about telomeres and the role they have in combating ageing and degenerative health conditions. Cameron Diaz wrote a book about them, health supplements are being developed to support them and they have been described by some as the key to the fountain of youth.

Shoe lace caps are a good analogy to describe what they are. Telomeres are the cap at the end of each strand of DNA in our cells. They protect our chromosomes in a similar way to the cap at the end of shoe lace protects the lace from unravelling. (That shoe lace cap, by the way is called an aglet, useful knowledge for you next pub trivia night!)

Telomeres shorten in length as we age, in fact they shorten with each cell division. Once a telomere reaches a critical limit the cell loses the power of division and growth (senescence) which in turn affects our health and lifespan.

The length of our telomeres is associated with our biological age as opposed to our chronological age. Shorter telomeres have been associated with increased disease rates and the ageing process.

The good news is that lifestyle factors and diet can affect the rate of telomere shortening, thereby slowing the rate of cellular ageing and the incidents of some diseases.

How to support our Telomeres:

Good diet

A diet based on whole-food healthy eating principles, high in antioxidants and fibre is important. Studies have found a positive correlation between longer telomeres and fibre and anti-oxidant intake.

Specifically, it is thought that a predominately plant-based diet containing high levels of folate, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D along with fibre and antioxidants (vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium) supports longer telomeres.

Foods to eat:


– Oranges (vitamin C, fibre)
– Capsicum (vitamin C)
– Kale (vitamin C)
– Almonds (vitamin E)
– Spinach (vitamin E)
– Sweet potato (vitamin E)
– Brazil nuts (selenium)


– Green leafy vegetables such as Kale, Spinach and Broccoli
– Lentils

Omega-3 Fatty Acids:

– Salmon and other oily fish
– Green leafy vegetables
– Flaxseed

Vitamin D:

– Mushrooms
– Salmon
– Egg yolks
– Cheese

salmonImage via pinterest

A good supplement with high antioxidants may also prove beneficial. Look for supplements with the following ingredients:

– Grape-seed extract (antioxidant)
– Acerola cherry (antioxidant, vitamin C)
– Inulin (fibre)
– Zinc (immune function)
– Sacha Inchi (fibre, essential fatty acid and antioxidant)

Stop Smoking

Smoke has been associated with accelerated telomere shortening. Just another reason in a million others to drop the cigarettes.

Stop stressing

Stress releases hormones from the adrenal glands which have been shown to damage DNA and accelerate telomere shortening.

Start moving

Moderate exercise can reduce harmful fats in the body and help get rid of toxic waste products thereby supporting DNA and telomere length.


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