Meat-free diet can make your cells younger

This is a follow-on article from my earlier blog post this month about the ‘Forks over Knives’ documentary, a film that I’d strongly recommend people seeing, as it puts forward a fascinating health case for following a diet low in animal proteins.

The New Scientist magazine last week reported on a study by the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California to see if diet and lifestyle could reduce or revert cell-ageing in 10 men in their early sixties with prostate cancer. They were ‘asked to follow a strict healthy-living regime rather than take a course of drugs. They ate a meat-free diet, did exercise and yoga daily and went to weekly group therapies. After five years, the telomeres on a type of white blood cell were 10% longer on average in these men. In contrast, 25 men with the same condition who kept to their usual lifestyles saw the telomeres on these cells shrink by an average of 3% over the same period.’

Telomeres sit at the end of the chromosomes in our cells, the DNA sections that hold information on how our cells should function. They seem to act as a biological clock, shortening in length as the cell ages. There’s a lot of evidence to indicate that people with short telomeres are likely to contract several major diseases - heart disease, dementia and cancer - and live shorter lives.

The news that a meat-free diet (along with exercise, yoga and therapy) could actually reverse telomere degradation is significant, although it fits with the evidence put forward in the ‘Knives over Forks’ documentary. Ten people isn’t a big study group but the finding, that telomeres actually increased in length (i.e. that these cells effectively got younger), is difficult to view as just coincidence.

I do feel that this could be the health story of the century. I can imagine there’ll be enormous opposition to a movement away from high animal protein diets, the meat and dairy industry is huge and very influential, but you could have said the same about the tobacco industry in the sixties. For the sake of the millions of people suffering and dying from heart disease, strokes and cancer, I sincerely hope more research is done and the whole subject gains a higher profile.