Impact of Lifestyle, Nutrition, and Stress on Telomere Shortening, Mortality, and Incidence of Age-Associated Diseases in Humans




Hearn, Kennedy A.

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When human and animal cells divide, they go through the cell cycle to replicate their DNA and ensure that all new cells receive a copy of each chromosome. Most of the chromosomal DNA is replicated accurately and efficiently by large enzyme complexes called DNA polymerase delta and DNA polymerase epsilon. A problem arises, however, with DNA replication at the ends of chromosomes in regions called telomeres. Telomeres are short in comparison to the full length of a chromosome and act as protective caps at the ends to prevent degradation. The two major DNA polymerases cannot replicate the ends completely and small numbers of base-pairs are lost from the telomeres with each replication cycle. Such ends must be replicated by a specialized DNA polymerase called telomerase. Most human cells stop producing telomerase during embryonic development and the telomeres subsequently get shorter over time. The rate of telomere shortening varies among individuals and evidence suggests that people with shorter telomeres have increased vulnerability to age-associated diseases such as heart disease, cancer and other ailments. Rates of telomere shortening are influenced by several factors. These influences include nutrition, psychological factors, lifestyle/behavioral choices, plus other predetermined factors like biological sex and genetics. In the current study the medical literature related to telomere shortening and human health has been comprehensively reviewed and the results summarized.



DNA, telomere, telomere shortening, telomerase, telomere length, lifestyle, nutrition, psychological stress, behavior


Hearn, K. A. (2023). Impact of lifestyle, nutrition, and stress on telomere shortening, mortality, and incidence of age-associated diseases in humans. Honors College, Texas State University.


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