Bariatric Surgery and Your Telomeres

It’s never to late to get younger. New research shows that telomeres can actually grow longer to keep you younger.

The medical name for weight loss surgery is bariatric surgery. The tips of your chromosomes are called telomeres. Telomeres are like the plastic cap on the tip of your shoelaces, and like shoelaces, telomeres prevent your chromosomes from unraveling and that slows your body’s aging.

Bariatric Surgery and Your Telomeres2As you age, your telomeres get shorter. That increases the risk both of losing vital DNA from the tips of your chromosomes and of having more errors when your DNA divides and replicates. It happens because your DNA uses the telomeres to line up the DNA when it divides and replicates just like you might hold the tips of your shoelaces if your were holding the two together.

In 2009, Karen Blackburn, Carol Greider and Jack Szostak received the Nobel Prize for discovering how telomeres worked. Since then there have been many more studies and the finding that telomerase can lengthen telomeres. In September 2013, a study led by Dr. Dean Ornish showed that lifestyle changes such as eating healthy whole foods, exercise and stress management were able to actually lengthen telomeres.

Subtracting pounds from your waistline might actually add length to your telomeres

So what has all this got to do with weight loss surgery? It turns out that subtracting pounds from your waistline might actually add length to your telomeres. A recent study by Stanford University researchers found that among the women who had the surgery, they were on average 49 years old and had a body mass index (BMI) of 44.3 (18 to 25 is considered normal so this would be a woman who is on average 5-feet, 9 inches tall and weighs 300 pounds). Their telomeres increased in length about 2 – 3%. That’s not a lot but most people are always losing more telomere length.

The women in the study also lowered their risk of diabetes, had less inflammation and lowered their LDL or “lousy” cholesterol.

So what is the take home message? For years you’ve been hearing the medical community warn you about the risks of obesity and urge you to eat smaller portions of whole foods that are mostly plant based, exercise and lower your stress via meditation, yoga, tai chi or other means. Now you know it really works!

If you want to keep your telomeres longer so you can live a longer and healthier life, control your weight and food choices, exercise and lower your stress levels. You can lower your weight with major surgery or you can adjust your lifestyle. The most important thing is to take action now. What is the first change you will make?