The Telomere Effect Book Summary - The Telomere Effect Book explained in key points
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The Telomere Effect summary

Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel

A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer

4.4 (155 ratings)
21 mins

Brief summary

The Telomere Effect by Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel explains the science behind telomeres, the protective caps on the ends of our chromosomes, and how they can be lengthened or damaged by lifestyle choices. It offers practical guidance for living a healthier, longer life.

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    The Telomere Effect
    Summary of 8 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 8

    The pace of aging depends on a specific cellular structure.

    Lots of people fear getting older, but is this just a product of the youth culture we live in or a valid fear of aging’s effects on the body?

    For many people, it’s probably the latter. A quick overview of the process of aging shows why it’s justified.

    The cells that compose our bodies have to regenerate regularly to keep us healthy. Some cells, however, can only be renewed a limited number of times. These are known as senescent cells. When they’re damaged, they send out inflammatory signals to other cells and body parts, damaging healthy structures, causing aging and making the body function poorly.

    This dynamic can be likened to a barrel of apples: just one piece of rotten fruit can affect all its healthy neighbors.

    That being said, how old a person looks and feels is also determined by the length of the telomeres in her cells. Telomeres are compound structures attached to the ends of chromosomes that help protect the cell. They get shorter every time a cell divides.

    This is especially problematic when it comes to stem cells, which have the potential to become all manner of different specialized cells in the body. They can divide continuously throughout a person’s life. In adults, they can be found in many different tissues and play a vital role in repairing the body by replacing damaged cells. Stem cells thus keep people feeling healthier and looking younger. However, if the telomeres of these cells shorten, they go into early retirement, meaning they can’t replace unhealthy cells as necessary.

    Because of this, shortened or damaged telomeres affect how old a person looks. For instance, damage to the telomeres in skin cells due to UV exposure from the sun or through genetic mutations, can cause hair to gray prematurely. Ultraviolet radiation can even damage the stem cells in a hair follicle itself, thereby killing melanocytes, which add pigment to the follicle.

    In general, people with shorter telomeres in their cells are sicker and weaker. Now that we’ve learned what telomeres are, it’s time to learn precisely how they work.

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    What is The Telomere Effect about?

    The Telomere Effect (2017) explains why some people look and feel younger than others. These blinks walk you through the science of telomeres, which are at the cellular root of the aging process. You’ll learn how it’s possible to do right by your telomeres and live a longer life.

    Best quote from The Telomere Effect

    Antioxidants in nutritional supplements are not recommended for telomere health as the evidence supporting their use is inconclusive.

    —Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel
    example alt text

    Who should read The Telomere Effect?

    • Anyone who wants to look and feel younger as they age.
    • Health buffs looking for new tips.
    • Couples thinking about having children or those who have just had one.

    About the Author

    Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD, shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009 with two colleagues after uncovering the molecular nature of telomeres. She is now president of the Salk Institute and a professor emeritus at University of California, San Francisco.

    Dr. Elissa Epel, PhD, is a leading health psychologist who studies stress, aging and obesity. She is a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at University of California, San Francisco, and a member of the National Academy of Medicine.

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