Is L-Carnosine the Anti-Aging Miracle Pill to Prevent Telomere Shortening?
L-Carnosine was recently touted on The Dr. Oz Show as a miracle anti-aging pill and has been linked to preventing telomere shortening. The latest research shows that telomere shortening is directly linked to heart attacks and premature death. Could L-Carnosine be the answer to anti-aging?
In a soon to be published article in the scientific journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology published by the American Heart Association, researchers involved in cellular aging have discovered the striking finding that telomere shortening is directly linked to heart attacks and premature death.
Telomeres are specialized repeating segments of DNA that cap the ends of chromosomes. The primary function of telomeres is to protect the free ends of chromosomes from losing base pair sequences at their ends and to prevent chromosomes from fusing to each other.
During the natural life cycle of a cell, cell growth and aging involves a replication process called mitosis where a parent cell will double its amount of DNA and then split into two daughter cells, each with a normal amount of chromosomal DNA. During this process, telomeres protect the ends of the chromosomes from a gradual loss at their ends.
A telomere is a repeating DNA sequence (TTAGGG for example) at the ends of chromosomes that can reach a length of several thousand base pairs. While the telomeres protect the ends of chromosomes from eroding away, each time a cell divides some of the telomere DNA sequence (approximately 25-200 base pairs at a time) is lost. The result is that telomeres gradually wear away. At some point in a cell’s life after many cell divisions, a telomere becomes too short and the cell can no longer replicate. The cell is then considered to be relatively old and then dies by a process called apoptosis—a normal process in cell aging.
In the aforementioned study to be published by the American Heart Association, researchers from the University of Copenhagen conducted a large scale study involving almost 20,000 individuals during a time period of nearly 19 years. In the study, each individual’s DNA was isolated and analyzed to determine their specific telomere length. Their research was based on previous studies that showed that smoking and obesity cause telomeres to shorten prematurely. And, since smoking and obesity are associated with heart disease, they wanted to see if there was a connection between heart disease and telomere length.
What they found was that if a person’s telomere length is short, then their risk of heart attack and premature death was increased by 50 and 25 percent, respectively.
"That smoking and obesity increases the risk of heart disease has been known for a while. We have now shown, as has been speculated, that the increased risk is directly related to the shortening of the protective telomeres—so you can say that smoking and obesity ages the body on a cellular level, just as surely as the passing of time," says Borge Nordestgaard, co-author of the study and Clinical Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at the University of Copenhagen.
A second finding from the study was that one in four Danes possesses telomeres with such short lengths that not only will they statistically die prematurely, but their risk of heart attack is also increased by almost 50 percent.
The idea that telomere length may be related to aging is not a new one. Furthermore, at least one study has demonstrated that L-Carnosine may play a protective role in preventing telomere damage and in decreasing the rate of telomere shortening during cell division—which technically is slowing down the aging process.
L-Carnosine consists of the two amino acids beta-alanine and histidine, and is found in high concentrations in the muscle and in the brain. L-Carnosine is believed to possess a significant number of powerful antioxidant properties and has been proposed to be a potential anti-aging compound that can reduce wrinkles and fine lines, improve brain functioning and prevent or treat cataracts of the eyes.
In fact, in a recent episode of the Dr. Oz Show, Dr. Oz promoted L-Carnosine as a miracle pill for anti-aging that will help a woman feel younger, look younger and see better. He says that as we age, our natural levels of L-Carnosine drop and that by taking a 500 mg supplement twice a day that we can expect to see a marked improvement in our skin within three months.
Current medical opinion is that the benefits of supplemental L-Carnosine are questionable and based on scant scientific evidence. One study published in 2004 claims that culturing human lung cells in a tissue culture solution supplemented with L-Carnosine resulted in reducing telomere shortening and extending the lifespan of the cells. Extending tissue culture results with one cell type to that of a human body during a person’s lifetime is a bit of a stretch to say the least, but still—the results are intriguing.
In spite of a lack of concrete evidence that L-Carnosine is an anti-aging miracle, it does have health benefits and is used for preventing or treating complications of diabetes such as nerve damage, cataracts and kidney problems. With additional research and a better understanding of how telomere shortening works and its connection to disease, it is possible that scientists may one day discover a way to create an anti-aging miracle pill such as L-Carnosine that will extend our lifespans.
Image Source: Courtesy of MorgueFile
“Short Telomere Length, Myocardial Infarction, Ischemic Heart Disease, and Early Death” Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology; Maren Weischer, Stig E. Bojesen, Richard M. Cawthon, Jacob J. Freiberg, Anne Tybjaerg-Hansen and Borge G. Nordestgaard.
“L-Carnosine reduces telomere damage and shortening rate in cultured normal fibroblasts” Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, Volume 324, Issue 2, 12 November 2004; Lan Shao, Qing-huan Li and Zheng Tan.