As we baby boomers age, we’re desperately trying to find ways to stay younger. Anti-aging research is a multibillion- dollar industry. And besides cosmetic enhancements, finding a way to protect our telomeres has become the holy grail of longevity research.
It should come as no surprise that magnesium is closely associated with telomeres. But the real shock is how few researchers are focusing on the miracle of magnesium in keeping telomeres from unraveling. Instead they are looking for drugs or formulating expensive supplements to save the telomeres—ignoring the solution that’s right before their eyes.
What’s a telomere? A telomere is an essential part of chromosomes that affects how our cells age. Telomeres are the caps at the ends of chromosomes that protect them from unraveling or getting attached to another chromosome. They are like the plastic cap at the end of a shoelace or the knot at the end of a string to keep it from unraveling. Here’s another analogy: it’s like the many extra stitches you put at the end of a line of sewing to prevent the thread from pulling free. Those extra stitches represent redundant sequences of nucleotides—the building blocks of DNA. They don’t have a function other than protecting chromosomes.
Aging is documented in our DNA: year by year, greater numbers of redundant telomere segments at the end of our chromosomes are nibbled away, eventually leaving the chromosome exposed. Telomere segments keep genes stable but shorten over time as cell division becomes less efficient, especially if the enzyme telomerase reverse transcriptase is deficient or not working properly. You don’t have to guess at what mineral this enzyme depends upon—magnesium, of course.
Shortened telomeres correspond with many conditions associated with aging, including heart disease. Heart disease is often a product of magnesium deficiency. Two brilliant magnesium researchers, Drs. Burton and Bella Altura, who wrote the foreword to this book, have published well over 1,000 scientific articles, most of them on magnesium. In 2014 the Alturas participated in a groundbreaking study on magnesium and the enzyme telomerase.
In it the Alturas review twenty-five years of their research that prefigures this present study. The paper’s discussion section is especially important, showing how telomeres are damaged by a host of environmental factors and how this damage is treatable and preventable by therapeutic levels of magnesium.
The following overview of the Alturas’ paper may sound complex and scientific, but I want you to understand the incredible value of magnesium in all tissues, in all cells, in all our mitochondria, and in the production of our RNA and DNA. It also summarizes many aspects of magnesium research:
Aging and Magnesium Deficiency
It’s common knowledge that over the age of sixty-five, many people show metabolic decline, with the appearance of atherosclerosis, hypertension, cardio vascular diseases, and type 2 diabetes, culminating in congestive heart failure. All of the attributes of aging have been associated clinically and experimentally with magnesium deficiency. The authors make the following very important observation: “The aging process is also associated with an increase in the levels of proinflammatory cytokines in tissues and cells all present in Mg-deficient animals, tissues, and different cell types.”
Oxidative Stress, Telomerase, and the Heart Certain markers of oxidative stress appear in cardiovascular tissues and DNA with an accompanying decrease in ionized magnesium levels. This indicates that magnesium deficiency could lead to multiple mutations in the genomes of multiple cell lines. The Alturas’ study shows that magnesium deficiency shaves off the ends of telomeres, which can be equated with aging and cardiovascular changes including hypertension, decreased ejection fraction, and cardiac failure.
Magnesium Deficiency and Endothelial Damage Studies by the Alturas in the late 1980s demonstrated changes in the endothelial lining of blood vessels due to magnesium deficiency. The Alturas say that magnesium’s importance in controlling microcirculation and in lipid buildup in the arterial walls is still being overlooked by the next generation of researchers.
Magnesium Deficiency and Chronic Stress Recent studies confirm that short-term magnesium deficiency causes marked reduction in heart cellular glutathione and in cells activating nitric oxide synthases that protect DNA. These findings support the theory that magnesium deficiency can cause mutations in many types of cells.
Magnesium Deficiency and Heart Failure All studies to date have confirmed, experimentally and clinically, that congestive heart failure is an inevitability by age seventy-five to eighty-five for people in magnesium-deficient states.
Magnesium and Cell Signaling for the Heart In the mid-1990s, the Alturas theorized that magnesium ions function as extracellular signals in the pathobiology of cardiovascular disease. A total of forty-two studies now support that theory. Magnesium has a critical role in the regulation of cardiac hemodynamics; vascular tone and reactivity; endothelial functions; carbohydrate, nucleotide, and lipid metabolism; prevention of free radical formation; and stabilization of the genome. Another seventeen studies find that magnesium has a crucial role in control of calcium uptake, subcellular content, and subcellular distribution in smooth muscle cells, endothelial cells, and cardiac muscle cells.
Magnesium Deficiency and Genotoxicity Summing up the role of magnesium in our genes, the Alturas point out that magnesium deficiency can induce cell cycle arrest (and senescence), can initiate programmed cell death, and is associated with DNA damage (genotoxic events). These magnesium- deficiency-related changes can occur in multiple cell types, including cardiac and vascular smooth muscle cells. Of note is that atherosclerotic plaque in the arterial walls of hypertensive patients shows considerable DNA damage, activation of DNA repair pathways, increased expression of p53 (a tumor suppressor protein), oxidation, apoptosis, and increased levels of ceramide (a waxy lipid).
In addition to the important role of therapeutic amounts of magnesium daily, diet, exercise and the quality of your mind space play roles in longevity and wellness. Tonight on my radio show we’ll discuss this topic in greater detail and answer your questions via phone, chat or email.