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http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn7514

Here’s something for all the overweight smokers:

From the page:

Tim Spector of St Thomas’ Hospital in London, UK, measured the length of the ends of chromosomes, called telomeres, in the white blood cells of 1122 women aged 18 to 76. Each time a cell divides, its telomere loses a small chunk of DNA. When it becomes too short, cells can no longer divide. In effect, telomere shortening acts as a kind of chromosomal clock, counting down the cellular generations.

When lifestyle factors were taken into account dramatic differences emerged. The difference between being obese and being lean corresponds to 8.8 years of extra ageing.

Smoking was the other big factor. “Smokers were on average biologically older than lifetime non-smokers by 4.6 years,” Spector says. “For a heavy smoker on 20 cigarettes a day for 40 years, that equals 7.4 years of extra biological ageing.”

And there is a synergistic effect. “Fat smokers are at the highest risk of all. An obese smoker is on average at least 10 years older than a lean non-smoker,” says Spector. “It’s not just about heart disease or lung cancer, the whole chromosomal clock is going faster. That’s the public health message.”

The Times online has an illustrated version of the New Scientist article.

…….. And the effects appear to be permanent. Quitting smoking or losing weight reduces the rate of telomere shortening but cannot reverse it. Ha!