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Telomere Longevity Research; Practical Applications

February 28th, 2022

Telomeres are DNA strands that exist at the ends of chromosomes. They improve DNA translation functionality by protecting the base pair sequences at chromosome ends, which can dissociate otherwise. They also stop chromosomes from fusing together. This can lead to malnutrition, halting of cell division, and other dysfunctional behavior. As we age, our telomeres get shorter, losing length with each cell division. Shortened telomeres are linked to signs of aging and chronic disease development. Telomere length is influenced by genetics, environment, oxidative stress and inflammation. Here are some methods that could increase or maintain telomere length (1):

1. Exercise and Weight Loss: Studies involving thousands of people are showing the association between increased activity levels, and longer telomere length in blood and muscle cells (2). These studies only mean that there could be a cause and affect relationship.

2. Nutrition: Increased telomere length is significantly associated with diets high in fruits, seaweed, 100% fruit juice, dairy products, coffee, legumes, nuts, vegetables, unrefined cereals, fish, and unsaturated fats (3). High “good cholesterol” or HDL levels also correlate to increased length of telomeres (3). Sufficient levels of omega-3-fatty acids are correlating with longer telomere length. Processed or red meats, high sugar, saturated fats, and alcohol are associated with decreased telomere length(3).

- Vitamin D: A study of over 2,000 women demonstrated that high Vitamin D levels parallel long telomeres (4).

- Folate: A small study of 195 people highlighted longer telomeres in people with higher folate levels. Other studies have shown that high homocysteine levels, which can be caused from folate deficiency, correspond with short telomeres (5,6,7).

- Multivitamins: Evidence supports the claim that multivitamin use is associated with longer telomeres (8).

3. Quitting Smoking: People who have ever smoked, and who currently smoke both demonstrate shorter telomere length on average compared to those who have never smoked, or who have quit (9,10).

4. Get Enough Sleep: An array of studies have shown that getting seven or more hours of sleep per night, is related to longer telomeres, controlling for other possible contributing factors. However, this is mostly demonstrated in the older population, with some studies showing that for younger and mid-life adults, there is no association (10,11,12,13).

5. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: Smaller, lower strength studies purport impressive effects on telomere lengthening, along with brain structure benefits, anti-inflammatory and other benefits. However, a larger analysis also showed that it can increase the amount of oxygen radicals which can lead to oxidative stress on cells. More research is needed in order to gain a more thorough picture of the benefit to risk ratio (14,15).

6. Meditation: Studies on the effects of meditation on telomere length are mixed, showing either benefits or neutral outcomes. More research is needed (16,17,18).

7. Stress Reduction: A number of studies have shown that high stress levels tend to be accompanied by shorter telomeres (19,20,21). Therefore stress reduction such as yoga, massages, meditation, vacations, or other relaxation techniques may be helpful.

Most of these studies are observational and are limited in nature, therefore they provide a low-moderately strong body of evidence.

Future Prospects: Scientists have been making exciting progress in areas including gene therapy, stem cell, mRNA, and drug development to extend telomeres in order to treat diseases and aging.

By: Evan Redmond, Pharm.D.


1. Rossiello, F., Jurk, D., Passos, J.F. et al. Telomere dysfunction in ageing and age-related diseases. Nat Cell Biol 24, 135–147 (2022).

2. Arsenis NC, You T, Ogawa EF, Tinsley GM, Zuo L. Physical activity and telomere length: Impact of aging and potential mechanisms of action. Oncotarget. 2017 Jul 4;8(27):45008-45019. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.16726. PMID: 28410238; PMCID: PMC5546536.

3. Balan E, Decottignies A, Deldicque L. Physical Activity and Nutrition: Two Promising Strategies for Telomere Maintenance?. Nutrients. 2018;10(12):1942. Published 2018 Dec 7. doi:10.3390/nu10121942

4. . Richards JB, Valdes AM, Gardner JP, Paximadas D, Kimura M, Nessa A, Lu X, Surdulescu GL, Swaminathan R, Spector TD, Aviv A. Higher serum vitamin D concentrations are associated with longer leukocyte telomere length in women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Nov;86(5):1420-5. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/86.5.1420. PMID: 17991655; PMCID: PMC2196219.

5. Moores, Carly J, et al. “Telomere Dynamics: the Influence of Folate and DNA MethylationCarl.” Https://, 27 July 2011,

6. Ligi Paul, Marco Cattaneo, Armando D'Angelo, Francesca Sampietro, Isabella Fermo, Cristina Razzari, Gessica Fontana, Nindra Eugene, Paul F. Jacques, Jacob Selhub, Telomere Length in Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells Is Associated with Folate Status in Men, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 139, Issue 7, July 2009, Pages 1273–1278,

7. . Carly J. Moores, Michael Fenech, Nathan J. O’Callaghan. Telomere dynamics: the influence of folate and DNA methylation. The New York Academy of Sciences. Volume 1229, Issue 1. 76-88.

8. Xu Q, Parks CG, DeRoo LA, Cawthon RM, Sandler DP, Chen H. Multivitamin use and telomere length in women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jun;89(6):1857-63. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2008.26986. Epub 2009 Mar 11. PMID: 19279081; PMCID: PMC2714373.

9. Astuti Y, Wardhana A, Watkins J, Wulaningsih W; PILAR Research Network. Cigarette smoking and telomere length: A systematic review of 84 studies and meta-analysis. Environ Res. 2017 Oct;158:480-489. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2017.06.038. Epub 2017 Jul 10. PMID: 28704792; PMCID: PMC5562268.

10. Barragán R, Ortega-Azorín C, Sorlí JV, et al. Effect of Physical Activity, Smoking, and Sleep on Telomere Length: A Systematic Review of Observational and Intervention Studies. J Clin Med. 2021;11(1):76. Published 2021 Dec 24. doi:10.3390/jcm11010076

11. Jackowska M, Hamer M, Carvalho LA, Erusalimsky JD, Butcher L, Steptoe A. Short sleep duration is associated with shorter telomere length in healthy men: findings from the Whitehall II cohort study. PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e47292. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0047292. Epub 2012 Oct 29. PMID: 23144701; PMCID: PMC3483149.

12. Lee KA, Gay C, Humphreys J, Portillo CJ, Pullinger CR, Aouizerat BE. Telomere length is associated with sleep duration but not sleep quality in adults with human immunodeficiency virus. Sleep. 2014;37(1):157-166. Published 2014 Jan 1. doi:10.5665/sleep.3328

13. Nguyen MT, Lycett K, Olds T, Matricciani L, Vryer R, Ranganathan S, Burgner D, Saffery R, Wake M. Objectively measured sleep and telomere length in a population-based cohort of children and midlife adults. Sleep. 2020 Jan 13;43(1):zsz200. doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsz200. PMID: 31732749.

14. De Wolde SD, Hulskes RH, Weenink RP, Hollmann MW, Van Hulst RA. The Effects of Hyperbaric Oxygenation on Oxidative Stress, Inflammation and Angiogenesis. Biomolecules. 2021; 11(8):1210.

15. Hachmo Y, Hadanny A, Abu Hamed R, Daniel-Kotovsky M, Catalogna M, Fishlev G, Lang E, Polak N, Doenyas K, Friedman M, Zemel Y, Bechor Y, Efrati S. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy increases telomere length and decreases immunosenescence in isolated blood cells: a prospective trial. Aging (Albany NY). 2020; 12:22445-22456.

16. Epel E, Daubenmier J, Moskowitz JT, Folkman S, Blackburn E. Can meditation slow rate of cellular aging? Cognitive stress, mindfulness, and telomeres. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009;1172:34-53. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04414.x

17. Alda M, Puebla-Guedea M, Rodero B, et al. Zen meditation, Length of Telomeres, and the Role of Experiential Avoidance and Compassion. Mindfulness (N Y). 2016;7:651-659. doi:10.1007/s12671-016-0500-5

18. Dasanayaka, N.N., Sirisena, N.D. & Samaranayake, N. The effects of meditation on length of telomeres in healthy individuals: a systematic review. Syst Rev 10, 151 (2021).

19.Epel ES, Blackburn EH, Lin J, et al. Accelerated telomere shortening in response to life stress. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004;101(49):17312-17315. doi:10.1073/pnas.0407162101

20.Ridout SJ, Ridout KK, Kao HT, et al. Telomeres, early-life stress and mental illness. Adv Psychosom Med. 2015;34:92-108. doi:10.1159/000369088

21. Price LH, Kao HT, Burgers DE, Carpenter LL, Tyrka AR. Telomeres and early-life stress: an overview. Biol Psychiatry. 2013;73(1):15-23. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2012.06.025

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