DNA, short for deoxyribonucleic acid, is the molecule that makes up our genetic coding to make us what we are. Telomeres are parts of DNA molecules, located at the ends of the ladder-shaped DNA molecules to keep them from unraveling.
Shortened telomeres have been found in diabetes, and diabetic patients with the shortest telomeres tend to have the most complications of the condition. Investigators at the Mexican Institute of Social Security in Leon Guanajuato, Mexico studied telomere lengths to get an idea of whether telomeres shorten during the course of having diabetes. Their results were published in August 2011 in the journal Aging Male.
The Study: Two hundred and eighty-seven men were included in the study.
1. one-third of these men had known they had Type 2 diabetes for at least 10 years,
2. one-third had received their Type 2 diabetes diagnosis less than one year ago, and
3. the remaining third were non-diabetic.
Results: It was found the group who had Type 2 diabetes for 10 years or more had the shortest telomeres, followed by the group who had been recently diagnosed. The longest telomeres were found in the non-diabetics. The researchers concluded that telomere shortening increases with the length of time after Type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance begins to take effect.
Telomeres are made up of parts of DNA called base pairs, and babies are born with 8,000 of them in each strand of DNA. The number of telomeres can decrease to as few as 1,500 in elderly people. Cells are able to divide about 50 to 70 times, with telomeres shortening each time, until cells become too old to reproduce or become cancerous. Researchers at the University of Utah in the USA discovered that among people over 60 years of age, those with the shortest telomeres were three times more likely to die from heart disease and eight times more likely to die from infectious disease than those with the longest telomeres.
Lengthening telomeres could someday extend lifetimes or end cancer, although much further research will have to be done before that possibility could become a reality.
An association between the length of time of having diabetes and having shorter telomeres does not necessarily show cause and effect. Further investigation will show whether a biological mechanism exists by which diabetes shortens telomeres. If diabetes is responsible for causing telomeres to grow smaller, then controlling your Type 2 diabetes could be one way to remain healthy longer.
Certainly, controlling diabetes is a good way to prevent complications, and slowing down aging could be another benefit. A vegan diet along with an exercise program that includes some weight training and aerobics, along with a medication regimen, if needed, can bring Type 2 diabetes under good control.