Science Update

New review investigates dietary fiber intake and its effect on telomere length and aging

Many Americans have a less-than-perfect diet, one that is high in calories and short on nutrients; and most are not getting enough fiber in their diet. Dietary fiber is crucial in supporting the proper microbial balance and optimizing gut health. Previous research has demonstrated the benefits on the gut microbiome by reducing the risk of colon cancer, type II diabetes, and other diseases.

One of the ways in which fiber can reduce the risk of disease is in regards to its impact on telomeres. The length of telomeres is highly correlated to chronological age and is often called the molecular clock of cells. Individuals with shorter telomeres have a higher risk of chronic disease and mortality.

In a newly published review in Nutrients, the researcher investigates the impact of dietary fiber intake on telomere length and aging. The relationship between fiber intake and telomere was evaluated using a cross-sectional design and an NHANES sample of 5,674 U.S. adults. Numerous studies demonstrate that individuals who consume higher levels of fiber live longer and have a reduced risk of chronic disease. As fiber intake increases, risk of disease and premature death decreases. As a result, an increased fiber intake demonstrated significant differences in telomere length.  Aging and telomere link is associated with oxidative stress and inflammation, and most likely higher fiber intake is helping to mitigate this.

In addition, fiber has significant impact on blood glucose levels. As blood glucose levels increase, inflammation and oxidative stress also increase. Fiber consumption slows the absorption of sugars, lowering blood glucose levels and insulin resistance, and decreasing the risk of diabetes. Therefore, higher fiber intake can slow aging and preserve telomere length by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress caused by elevated blood sugar concentrations.

Previous research has shown that certain foods contribute to telomere length. For example, individuals who consume higher amounts of nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables have longer telomere lengths than others. In contrast, processed meats were associated with shorter telomere length.

Only 10 percent of Americans meet their daily fiber needs of 25 to 38 grams per day, with most only eating 12 to 14 grams per day. More and more research is demonstrating that the food we eat affect what bacteria populations we have in our gut and this plays a role in all other aspects of our health. By simply consuming more fiber, one can significantly affect microbial populations, resulting in improved gastrointestinal health and reduced risk of chronic disease and mortality. 

By Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN, CNS


Source: Tucker LA. Dietary fiber and telomere length in 5674 US Adults: An NHANES Study of Biological aging. Nutrients. 2018 March 23;10(4). pii: E400. doi: 10.3390/nu10040400.