The data in this column is meant for informational purposes only, and doesn’t constitute medical advice or recommendations from the writer. Please consult with your doctor prior to making any lifestyle or medication changes, or in case you have any other concerns regarding your wellbeing.
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Many health claims are made for green tea, and as with the huge majority of over-hyped fad foods and nutritional supplements, nearly all such claims will, necessarily, prove to be overstated or untrue. However, recent and continuing clinical research continues to suggest that, at least in the lab environment, key chemical elements of green tea (catechins) may indeed have potentially beneficial health properties. Specifically, research in the areas of cardiovascular health and cancer prevention have suggested that green tea catechins might actually have the ability to decrease the possibility of both of these top killers, though, in the interest of remaining objective, not all studies in these areas has been uniformly favorable.
Now, a recently published public health study of older Chinese adults suggests that green tea intake, at least in older Chinese men, might be related to an expected increase in lifespan. In this study a total of 976 guys and 1,030 women aged 65 and older were originally evaluated in 2006. Along with daily food intake questionnaires, the blood of those research volunteers had been analyzed for telomere length, in an attempt to identify any dietary or other lifestyle factors which may be related to lifespan-lengthening preservation of telomere length.
Telomeres can be thought of as protective “caps” at the ends of each chromosome in our own body. With each branch of the cells of our body, little parts of our telomeres are missing. After a certain number of cell divisions, our cells shed their protective telomeres and perish. This cumulative process of telomere loss and cell death (senescence), within the course of our lives, is believed to directly ascertain the potential lifespan of humans and other animals, and has also been implicated in the process whereby many cancer cells eventually become “immortalized.”
Besides aging (because of cumulative telomere reduction with every cell division), inflammation and other biochemical pressures (including increased dietary fat intake) in our bodies may also prematurely shorten the length of telomeres in our cells, leading to a shortened lifespan and a higher chance of developing cancer (and, possibly, an increased risk of cardiovascular disease too ). Interestingly, the rate of telomere loss seems to be more rapid in men, which is supposed to be among the most significant biological factors underlying the generally shorter lifespan of men, in comparison to women.
Scientists can actually roughly gauge a person’s age by measuring the length of telomeres in their blood cells. Moreover, variations in telomere length between individuals may also be utilised as a rough guide to possible differences in lifespan between such people. In this innovative public health study, differences in telomere length among the 2,006 older research volunteers participating in this research were then matched to variations in the diets and lifestyles of those Chinese patients.
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After adjusting for other health, lifestyle, and nutritional factors known to be related to telomere length, the scientists conducting this research determined that a high degree of green tea consumption was associated with longer telomeres in older Chinese men. After quantifying the average difference in telomere length between men who consumed the most green tea and those who consumed the least, the researchers calculated that a possible lifespan difference between 5 year between both of these groups of guys (the effects of green tea length on telomere length in the older Chinese women was less important in this study, however).
The researchers also determined that increased dietary fat and oil intake was also correlated with a decline in the length of telomeres in girls (as was noted in both women and men in previous studies, especially in association with meat ingestion ).
Therefore, in summary, the frequent consumption of green tea seems to be connected with longer telomere length, at least in older Chinese men. This finding suggests that, normally, such men could be roughly 5 years “younger,” physiologically speaking, compared to their same-aged counterparts who seldom drink green tea!
This study, sadly, did not recognize the identical telomere protective effect for green tea in older Chinese women, although this finding doesn’t exclude the possibility that women may also derive similar benefit from regular green tea ingestion. As it’s already known that men lose telomere length more rapidly than females over the course of their own lives, the gender-based differences in telomere length preservation detected in this study may emerge from green tea catechins’ reversal of male-specific causes of increased telomere shortening, although this hasn’t been clinically confirmed.