Epigenetic Changes Linked With Aging Witnessed As Telomeres On DNA Are Shortened As A Result Of Junk Food Consumption
changes linked to aging was observed in people who eat a lot of industrially processed junk food as they are likely to exhibit a change in their chromosomes linked to ageing, according to study by researchers from University of Navarra in Spain.
The study found that three or more servings of so-called "ultra-processed food" per day doubled the odds that strands of DNA and proteins called telomeres, found on the end of chromosomes, would be shorter compared to individuals who rarely consumed such foods, scientists reported at the European and International Conference on Obesity recently.
The study findings which were published early this year are found in the year in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article-abstract/111/6/1259/5824715?redirectedFrom=fulltext
It has already been known from previous studies that short telomeres are a marker of biological ageing at the cellular level, and the study suggests that diet is a factor in driving the cells to age faster.
Although the correlation is strong, however, the causal relationship between eating highly processed foods and diminished telomeres remains speculative, the authors cautioned.
Typically each human cell has 23 pairs of chromosomes that contain our genetic code.
Importantly telomeres do not carry genetic information, but are vital for preserving the stability and integrity of chromosomes and, by extension, the DNA that all the cells in our body relies on to function.
However as one ages, our telomeres shorten naturally because each time a cell divides, part of the telomere is lost.
Significantly that reduction in length has long been recognized as a marker of biological age.
Resaerchers led by Professors Dr Maria Bes-Rastrollo and Dr Amelia Marti, both of the University of Navarra in Spain, wanted to explore a suspected connection between the regular consumption of highly processed junk food and shrinking telomeres.
Previous research had pointed to a possible link with sugar-sweetened drinks, processed meats and other foods loaded with saturated fats and sugar, but the findings were inconclusive.
Typically ultra-processed foods are industrially manufactured substances composed of some mix of oils, fats, sugars, starch and proteins that contain little if any whole or natural foods.
These often include artificial flavourings, colourings, emulsifiers, preservatives and other additives that increase shelf-life and profit margins.
However these same properties also mean that such foods are nutritionally poor compared to less processed alternatives, the researchers said.
Importantly numerous studies have shown strong correlations between ultra-processed foods and hypertension, obesity, depression, type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer.
These medical conditions are often age-related in so far as they are linked to oxidative stres
s and inflammation known to influence telomere length.
Dr Marti and colleagues looked at health data for nearly 900 people aged 55 or older who provided DNA samples in 2008 and provided detailed data about their eating habits every two years thereafter.
In the study involved 645 men and 241 women who were equally divided into four groups, depending on their consumption of ultra-processed foods.
Interestingly those in the high-intake group were more likely to have a family history of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and abnormal blood fats.
Those in that group also consumed less foods associated with the Mediterranean diet such as fiber, olive oil, fruits, vegetable and nuts.
When compared to the group who ate the fewest ultra-processed foods, the other three groups showed an increased likelihood of 29, 40 and 82 percent, respectively of having shortened telomeres.
The study team concluded that junk food could cause epigenetic changes with the telomeres being shortened and faster aging being the resultant effect.
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