Telomere science is helping keep cells is optimal condition.
It may not seem like it, but when you buy a health product, you are purchasing the end result of months, or even years, of research and development. Every ingredient is there for a reason.
The aim with T5 was to find natural products which peer-reviewed articles suggested may have a positive effect on the telomere in healthy cells The telomere is a sort of biological clock. It is attached to the chromosomal DNA and shortens every time healthy cells divide. The shortening telomere eventually reaches the irreversible point of ‘cellular senescence’, after which the cell no longer divides or functions in the same way as a young cell. In particular we sought products which affect activity and levels of telomerase. Often referred to as ‘the fountain of youth’, telomerase is an enzyme responsible for transcribing the telomere onto the end of the chromosome and for maintaining the length of it.
After reading a fat stack of literature, including studies which addressed oral absorption, dosages and safety, we settled on Astragalus extract, Baicalin, Glutathione, Selenium and an antioxidant mix as the most effective combination.
Astragulus membranaceous is a fundamental herb of Chinese medicine. It contains two powerful and supremely expensive ‘small molecule selective telomerase activators’ known as Astragaloside IV and Cycloastragenol. The levels of Cycloastragenol in T5 are miniscule, however some Astragaloside IV is converted to it during digestion. In-vitro studies have shown that Astragalus extracts can selectively increase telomerase activity by up to 3.3 times, slow telomere loss in immune cells and upregulate the level of telomerase in skin cells through increasing telomerase production. Animal studies have shown increased telomere length and decrease in various signs of aging in old mice. The effect of extracts on cells was cumulative, with five months exposure having a greater effect than 7 days. A human trial showed that after 12 months on a protocol which included Astragalus extract, cells begin to model a more youthful configuration and show fewer short telomeres than those from humans that were not on the protocol. Astragaloside IV and Cycloastragenol equally inhibit oxidative stress (free-radical damage) which affects the telomere more than other parts of the chromosome.
Baicalin and Telomere Science
Baicalin is a flavone extracted from the medicinal herb Scutellaria baicalensis. In-vitro, baicalin protects skin cells from the telomere damage usually inflicted by Ultraviolet A radiationAn inhibitory effect of baicalin in cells and skin exposed to UVB radiation has also been seen[10,11]. Along with oxidative damage, UV radiation is a major cause of visible skin aging (‘photoaging’). Usefully, baicalin is also an antioxidant. Although most studies have been in-vitro, other studies have shown both that baicalin is absorbed in the colon (that is, not destroyed by digestion and that certain metabolic products of oral ingestion are reproduced when pre-digested baicalin is applied directly to intestinal cells. In other words, there are strong indications that baicalin is effective when taken orally.
Glutathione is synthesised by every human cell and functions as the body’s master antioxidant, mopping up the telomere-damaging free radicals and peroxides that result from environmental exposure to toxins and from normal metabolism. Telomere length and integrity are strongly related to oxidative stress. Glutathione also helps regenerate other antioxidants, including vitamins C and E and regulates telomerase. Research has shown that the levels of active glutathione in the cell decrease under conditions of oxidative stress, leading to telomere damage[15,16]. Oral glutathione intake has recently been shown to effectively boost cellular glutathione levels in humans.
Antioxidants and Selenium
Having already established that oxidative stress is a major factor in telomere damage, we decided to include a broad range antioxidant in T5. Although research is limited, one cross-sectional analysis reported that telomeres were 5.1% longer in women using a mixed antioxidant multi daily and that higher intakes of vitamins C and E from food are associated with telomere length. Selenium, cellular levels of which decrease with age, is a potent antioxidant that has been shown to increase telomerase activity and genetic expression of its sub-unit hTERT in rat and human liver cells[19,20].
Of course, not everything can go into a supplement! During the research process we also discovered that moderate exercise and a diet high in fruits and vegetables are telomere protective, while smoking and alcohol consumption are telomere unfriendly. Ultimately it comes down to looking after your telomeres, so that they can look after you.
Sara Lake is a Christchurch (New Zealand) based nutritionist, food blogger and MSc student of human nutrition at Massey University.
1. University of Copenhagen. ‘Fountain of youth’ telomerase: Scientists successfully map enzyme that has rejuvenating effect on cells. 2013.
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