A good diet, regular exercise and stress management may be the best way to slow down the aging process. Ever since Ponce de Leon started searching for the fountain of youth, people have sought a magic elixir to reverse aging. Americans spend billions on hormones, anti-aging creams, antioxidants and other dietary supplements. But so far none have been proven the life extenders that so many wish for.
A new study by Dean Ornish and his colleague Nobel Prize-winner Elizabeth Blackburn examined the effect of a mostly vegetarian diet, meditation, yoga, group support and exercise among men who had been diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer. At the end of five years, the men who had followed this lifestyle intervention had significantly longer telomeres than at the beginning of the study.
Telomeres are the caps on the ends of chromosomes that help keep them from unraveling, somewhat like the tip on the end of a shoelace. The men in the control group, who maintained their usual habits, had slightly shorter telomeres at the end of the study. In previous research, telomere length was linked to better health and greater longevity.
Although the study was small, with only 10 men in the treatment group and 25 in the control group, the results are intriguing enough to support the idea that diet, exercise and stress management could be important contributors to good health and longer life.