Year of selection 2013
Institution University of Glasgow
Country United Kingdom
You are what you eat, they say, and, according to José Noguera’s research, what you eat may also affect how you age. Not in terms of wrinkles or gray hairs, but on the level of your cells. Inside every one of them, your chromosomes—those dense packages of DNA—come with protective caps at their ends, called telomeres. Over a lifetime, these tips get shorter and shorter, which is thought to contribute to cellular aging and disease. Dr. Noguera is investigating this process and how micronutrients in the diet may affect the life span of telomeres themselves.
Damage is caused within cells by the activity of highly reactive, oxidizing molecules, which is why we hear about the antioxidant benefits of certain foods. There is evidence that telomeres are worn down by this activity, leading José Noguera to ask if increasing intake of antioxidant micronutrients, like selenium and vitamins C and E, can help protect telomeres and defend against disease. His research on zebra finches suggests this could be the case in males, especially, if a diet rich in micronutrients is available early in life. This helped prevent telomere loss later, during particularly demanding periods for the body, like sexual maturation and reproduction. If Dr. Noguera’s results prove applicable to humans, a better understanding of the way diet influences aging could bring valuable information to improve quality of life as we get older.
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