Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Change your life expectancy in two weeks?

Yesterday this article appeared in my news feed: Four Ways to Change Your DNA.  I was intrigued as I had written before about some people who thought diet could "activate" their DNA (you can't, and you don't want to), so I wanted to see what she had to say.  I was also intrigued because the letters after her name are similar to mine as well.

At the end of the article, however, I found that I had a really big problem with this statement here:
"Research shows that lifestyle changes in four areas affect your genes within just two weeks. This means your body can change the way it responds to your DNA within 14 days to making the way for lowering blood pressure, blood glucose levels, weight, and even how quickly your body ages."

Today's lesson, dear readers, is that whenever someone gives you that specific of a time frame it should raise a huge red flag.  The second lesson is always make sure you read the links.  Every link of hers I followed mentioned that research on telomeres is exciting, but we couldn't really make any recommendations yet.  So I started doing some of my own reading on the subject and came up with some really educational information here and here, but once again, nobody seemed to be able to say with confidence that certain things could definitely change telomere length, and the research that is going on looks at testing after months or even a year!  And some of the completed studies have flaws and/or tend to give rise to one of our favorite Skeptic sayings, "Correlation does not equal causation!"

Are there other good reasons to watch what you eat and drink, quit smoking, be more active, and find better ways to handle stress?  Absolutely!  Do we need to use big headlines and unfounded statements to motivate ourselves to do these things?  I hope not, or we as a society are in trouble.

Take home message--more work needs to be done on telomeres before we start using them to guide our health recomendations.  And always read things all the way through whenever you can.

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