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Dean Ornish diet makes your cells younger

A few days ago we wrote about an experiment which showed that intensive meditation boosts the activity of the potential life-extending enzyme telomerase. A few years ago the American nutritionist Dean Ornish discovered that the combination of a healthier diet, vitamin and fish-oil supplementation, a little more exercise and relaxation exercises has the same effect. In men with prostate cancer.

Ornish believes in not smoking, and a diet containing as few refined carbohydrates as possible, few animal products, and lots of plant-based products such as soya and whole grains. He also believes in supplements, physical exercise, yoga and meditation, and socio-psychological support.

Ornish has had success with heart patients who have followed this approach. He also formulated a diet plan for Bill Clinton when the former president's arteries started to get blocked. [ 03 Oct 2010]

In 2008 Ornish published a study in The Lancet Oncology, in which he tried his approach on 30 men who had been told a year previously that they had a non-aggressive form of prostate cancer.

Ornish got his subjects to follow a diet in which the energy content was derived for only 10 percent from fat, but which contained lots of plant-based products: fruit, vegetables, beans and whole grains. Refined carbohydrates were excluded. Every day the men ate a portion of tofu and 58 g soya-protein supplement. They also took 3 g fish oil and 2 g vitamin C. The men did at least half an hour of exercise every day, and an hour of yoga, breathing exercises, and visualisation or meditation. In addition they participated once a week in a support group.

In three months' time the men's waist measurement had decreased by almost 8 cm, and their blood lipid concentrations had improved. They scored better on psychological tests and spent less time worrying about their disease [Impact of Event Scale: Intrusive thoughts].

Dean Ornish diet makes your cells younger

Dean Ornish diet makes your cells younger

In addition the telomerase activity in the men's blood cells increased by almost 30 percent. When the researchers looked for relationships, they discovered that the increase in the enzyme activity correlated with the cholesterol level. The greater the decrease in concentration of 'bad' LDL cholesterol, the greater the increase in telomerase activity.

The researchers also found a relationship with the men's mental functioning. The less the men brooded about their illness, the more telomerase activity the researchers observed.

A non-specialist interested in longevity would conclude that the Ornish approach helps extend lifespan. The researchers are not prepared to stick their neck out that far. "Given the pilot nature of this study, we report these increases in telomerase activity as a significant association rather than inferring causation", the researchers write. "Larger randomised controlled trials are warranted to confirm the findings of this study."

Lancet Oncol. 2008 Nov;9(11):1048-57.

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Stress reduces life expectancy at molecular level 07.11.2009