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Get excited about nutrition, and learn as you go with these information-packed resources on a wide variety of nutrition-centric topics! Our bistroMD experts review the importance of the macronutrients protein, fat, and carbohydrates, as well as how to make them work most efficiently for you.

Interaction of Food and Nutrients on Telomeres

The nutrients contained in the food we eat have a relationship to the telomeres in our body. Knowing what these relationships are and how they work, can help us to make smarter choices in our diet, which may help increase telomere health. The benefits of telomere health are becoming more understood every day, with newer theories and facts coming frequently. These foods and nutrients will help you to make better choices in your diet, and increase not only your telomere health, but your overall well-being.

Interaction of Food and Nutrients on Telomeres

The link between food and telomeres is substantial, whether it causes shortening or lengthening. And while the focus of plant-based diets, complimented with lean proteins, fish, and dairy products, continues to demonstrate beneficial outcomes on telomere aging, the following nutrients have been further explored at a cellular level.

Nutrients and Telomeres

B Vitamins

In particular, vitamins B6, B12, and folate, are essential in the production of DNA, nerves, and blood cells; functions imperative for keeping a healthy brain and immune system. B vitamins also dispose of homocysteine, a molecule associated with increased heart disease, with data suggesting elevated homocysteine. Reduced B vitamins has also been associated with shorter telomere length.

Sources of Vitamin B6: rice bran, pistachio nuts, fish, turkey and chicken, sunflower and sesame seeds
Sources of Vitamin B12: primarily in animal products, including meat, eggs, dairy, and fish and shellfish, though also found in plant-derived products including fortified ready-to-eat cereals and soymilk
Sources of Folate: dark leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, avocado, brussels sprouts, and legumes

Vitamin C

Acting as an antioxidant, vitamin C has shown to reduce telomere shortening and combat against cellular aging. Vitamin C also shows promise in the prevention of age-related cataracts.

Sources: oranges and orange juices, bell peppers, peaches, guavas, currants

Vitamin E

Like vitamin C, vitamin E can act as a potent antioxidant and influence telomere length.

Sources: legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils

Vitamin D

Along with bone support, vitamin D plays a vital role in cellular processes, which grows the speculation that it may be beneficial in telomere biology. In fact, a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found higher serum vitamin D concentrations are associated with longer telomere length. Vitamin D has also been implied to promote telomerase activity, the enzyme responsible for elongating telomere length.

Sources: natural sunlight, egg yolk, salmon, sardines, and fortified products, including cereal, milk, and orange juice


Closely related to vitamin A, carotenoids are the yellow pigment molecules that give produce their vibrant colors. But studies suggest carotenoids offer much more than color, and may even lengthen telomeres.

Sources: carrots, apricots, mangoes, sweet potatoes, kale, and spinach

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are already recognized for their promising role in lessening heart disease risk, though growing evidence supports benefits for telomere length.

Sources: fatty fish, such as tuna and salmon, flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, walnuts, and olive oil


Zinc plays a large role in cell division and growth, and growing research suggests it may also play an effective role in modulating telomerase in cancer cells. Additionally, impaired zinc utilization and deficiency has been associated to shorter telomeres in the elderly population.

Sources: red meat and poultry, crab and lobster, beans, whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals, and dairy products


Although consuming a well-balanced meal is touted to supply all essential nutrients, multivitamins can help fill in the holes to ensure nutritional adequacy. Interestingly, those who take a multivitamin are suggested to live longer compared to those who do not. Your primary healthcare provider can assist in determining whether or not you may benefit from a multivitamin, along with directing you to a safe product.

Sydney Lappe's Photo
Written By Sydney Lappe, MS, RDN. Published on October 05, 2017. Updated on June 05, 2020.


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