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Short Telomeres Linked to Risk for Common Cold

Posted Mar 13 2013 10:25pm
Posted on March 12, 2013, 6 a.m. in Infectious Disease

Telomeres are the end caps of chromosomes, protecting the DNA complexes from deterioration during cell division. Telomere shortening is considered a marker of cellular aging, and prematurely shortened telomeres have been linked to increased risk of cancers, heart disease, dementia and death.  Sheldon Cohen, from Carnegie Mellon University (Pennsylvania, USA), and colleagues enrolled 152 men and women, ages 18 to 55 years, measuring each subject’s telomere length on four types of immune cells: peripheral blood mononuclear cells, CD4-positive cells, CD8 cells positive for CD28, and CD8 cells negative for CD28.  Participants spent 24 hours in the laboratory under quarantine and then were given nasal drops containing 100 tissue culture infectious doses of rhinovirus 39. They were monitored for 5 days for development of cold symptoms. Relative risks for becoming infected by either of these definitions ranged from 1.22 for each standard deviation decrease in telomere length on peripheral blood mononuclear cells, to 1.38 on CD8/CD28-negative cells.  For clinical illness, each standard deviation decrease in telomere length brought a significant increase in risk only for measurements on CD8/CD28-negative cells.  Further, the team observed that for telomere length measured in all four cell types, about 80% of individuals in the shortest tertile became infected, compared with fewer than 60% in the longest tertile.  Only when telomere length was measured in CD8/CD28-negative cells was there a significant difference in clinical illness rates among tertiles: about 25% of those in the shortest tertile developed clinical colds versus about 13% of the longest tertile.  The study authors conclude that: “shorter CD8CD28− T-cell telomere length was associated with increased risk for experimentally induced acute upper respiratory infection and clinical illness.”

Sheldon Cohen, Denise Janicki-Deverts, Ronald B. Turner, Margaretha L. Casselbrant, Ha-Sheng Li-Korotky, Elissa S. Epel, William J. Doyle.  “Association Between Telomere Length and Experimentally Induced Upper Respiratory Viral Infection in Healthy Adults.”  JAMA. 2013;309(7):699-705.

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A ten-year long European study involving 20,649 men and women found that increased blood levels of Vitamin C reduce the risk of stroke by 42%. University of Cambridge (United Kingdom) researchers revealed that both consumption of Vitamin C-rich foods and dietary vitamin supplements were equivalent in providing stroke-reducing benefits. They found that an optimal blood level of Vitamin C was reached after study subjects ingested five servings of fruits and vegetables.

A potent antioxidant that protects against free radical cellular damage, Vitamin C is found in abundantly in citrus fruit and juices, strawberries, blueberries, rose hips, cantaloupes, tomatoes, and red bell peppers.

Because Vitamin C is easily destroyed by cooking, opt to eat your fruits and vegetables raw. As well, because Vitamin C levels drop as foods are stored, buy as is locally available and consume immediately after purchase.
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