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The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer

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The New York Times bestselling book coauthored by the Nobel Prize winner who discovered telomerase and telomeres' role in the aging process and the health psychologist who has done original research into how specific lifestyle and psychological habits can protect telomeres, slowing disease and improving life.
Have you wondered why some sixty-year-olds look and feel like forty-year-olds and why some forty-year-olds look and feel like sixty-year-olds? While many factors contribute to aging and illness, Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn discovered a biological indicator called telomerase, the enzyme that replenishes telomeres, which protect our genetic heritage. Dr. Blackburn and Dr. Elissa Epel's research shows that the length and health of one's telomeres are a biological underpinning of the long-hypothesized mind-body connection. They and other scientists have found that changes we can make to our daily habits can protect our telomeres and increase our health spans (the number of years we remain healthy, active, and disease-free).THE TELOMERE EFFECT reveals how Blackburn and Epel's findings, together with research from colleagues around the world, cumulatively show that sleep quality, exercise, aspects of diet, and even certain chemicals profoundly affect our telomeres, and that chronic stress, negative thoughts, strained relationships, and even the wrong neighborhoods can eat away at them. Drawing from this scientific body of knowledge, they share lists of foods and suggest amounts and types of exercise that are healthy for our telomeres, mind tricks you can use to protect yourself from stress, and information about how to protect your children against developing shorter telomeres, from pregnancy through adolescence. And they describe how we can improve our health spans at the community level, with neighborhoods characterized by trust, green spaces, and safe streets. THE TELOMERE EFFECT will make you reassess how you live your life on a day-to-day basis. It is the first book to explain how we age at a cellular level and how we can make simple changes to keep our chromosomes and cells healthy, allowing us to stay disease-free longer and live more vital and meaningful lives.

348 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 3, 2017

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About the author

Elizabeth Blackburn

24 books71 followers
Elizabeth Blackburn is an Australian-American Nobel laureate who is the former President of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Previously she was a biological researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, who studied the telomere, a structure at the end of chromosomes that protects the chromosome. In 1984, Blackburn co-discovered telomerase, the enzyme that replenishes the telomere, with Carol W. Greider. For this work, she was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Librarian's note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 537 reviews
Profile Image for Frank Livaudais.
7 reviews8 followers
February 7, 2017
"Groundbreaking book" is going a little far. It was an interesting book that added basically no new information to the pantheon.

If you don't have time to read this book, here is the TLDR:
Don’t be a caregiver
Be White
Don’t be poor
Exercise at least 3x a week
Eat Fruits/Veggies
Don’t Smoke
Be thin (at least don’t have belly fat)
Don't eat so much sugar.

That’s the whole book. #yourewelcome. If you haven't read any diet or health books in the last decade you might learn something but if you already know you should exercise and eat veggies, you're all set.

And if you happen to be a non-white caregiver that is poor, overweight and smokes…you’re fooked.
Profile Image for Always Pouting.
575 reviews761 followers
March 10, 2020
Honestly what the hell man, I thought I was picking up a book by a Nobel Laureate about their biology research but instead what I got was a book written by some health psychologist pushing the latest advice on being healthy that I'd already heard. I feel like yeah maybe I should have anticipated it somewhat from the title and branding but it also feels disingenuous to it say it's by the Nobel prize winning biologist. Or even to list that biologist first when listing the authors.

I also feel like it's quite pathetic how bad a job this book does at justifying why one should aim to have longer telomeres as a goal. Like just a while ago I read Lifespan by David Sinclair and then complained how it wasn't focusing enough on the science and this was just so much worse. The author mentions confounding variables at a point, but seems to neglect the fact that longer telomeres being correlated or useful for predicting certain good health outcomes doesn't indict a casual relationship. There's like zero effort even made to at least offer up a plausible theory of the underlying dynamics that cause shorter telomeres to lead to the signs of again. At least Sinclair proposed a clear theory for aging and then made a cohesive argument for it.

This felt like an attempt to repackage advice, much of which is evidence based, in some unified fashion by making nebulous links to their correlation to longer telomeres, but without any justification for why it should matter that that link exists. It feels like an exercise in branding to create some wellness program with the veneer of science but without doing the work of creating any explanations for why things work a certain way. Also she named drop Deepak Chopra and that's just going to be a hard no from me.

All I wanted was a book about science and instead I got some god damn therapy, and if I had wanted therapy, I wouldn't have stopped going to therapy. I want to be like someone please teach psychologists how statistics work, but there was enough hedging in the book that makes me feel like she knows the limitations of the studies and science, which makes it feel like this is an attempt to build a brand (and sell book) more than an attempt to do science education about the current state of telomere research.
Profile Image for David Rubenstein.
816 reviews2,583 followers
January 9, 2019
The new field of telomere research is fascinating. Telomeres obviously have a big effect on our lives and on our aging. Elizabeth Blackburn is a co-discoverer of telomerase, an enzyme that helps to replenish telomeres. For this discovery, she won the Nobel Prize in physiology. She well deserves that prize.

I generally enjoy reading science books when the author is a researcher in the field. And, since Elizabeth Blackburn is a leading scientist in the field of telomeres, I thought this would be a superb book. It is a very good book, but I did not care much for its self-help aspects. Some research has shown that chronic stress helps to decrease the length of telomeres, leading to more rapid aging. This book makes a big, big deal out of this finding. The book presents quizzes to the reader, to help determine the role of stress in one's life. There is lots of advice given, about how to cope and manage stress.

Nevertheless, this is a very controversial area. For example, the metastudy about perceived stress and telomere length found that the correlation, while statistically significant, is very small. So, one of the major themes in the book is very much a questionable hypothesis. The book comes off feeling more like a self-help book--recommending all the lifestyle changes that you can read about in many other places--instead of a comprehensive look at the scientific field of telomere and telomerase research. Frankly, much of the book bored me.
Profile Image for Rachel Stansel.
1,057 reviews18 followers
February 6, 2017
I have to start by saying my PhD research was in this field. I was SO excited to read Dr Blackburn's book since I have been out of the field for a decade. As a scientist, I found it much like reading a very long review. I found myself wondering if in trying too hard to make it accessible, it just got very dry. This is an interesting field and the research has the potential or creating new treatments for a wide variety of problems. Even as someone who knows the science well and is interested in the field, it was rough. The title says "The New Science of Living Younger, " but I felt like it just rehashed the science that most people know. Sleep well, eat well, exercise, reduce stress and environmental toxins. I was disappointed.

Full disclosure - I received a copy of the book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Judith.
1,538 reviews76 followers
April 20, 2017
Breaking news: exercise is useful in the fight against aging. And here, from a Nobel prize winning scientist is the science to back it up. And by the way: drink clean water, eat organic fruits and vegetables; stay away from processed foods; develop a loving close-knit social network. All of these things will improve your telomeres which are those little things at the end of your DNA strands that look like the plastic piece at the end of your shoelaces which keep your shoelaces from unraveling.
Profile Image for Repix.
2,224 reviews429 followers
December 27, 2020
Estar delgado, no fumar, comer sano y hacer deporte.
Profile Image for Susan.
1,582 reviews40 followers
February 7, 2017
This is a fascinating look at why all those things you know are good for you actually are good for you: A healthy diet, positive attitude, exercise, good stress management, rewarding friendships and life goals. It is no surprise to see these things recommended but I never knew the exact mechanism by which these elements help us live long and healthy lives. We all know we should avoid stress, isolation, processed foods, smoking and pesticides, and a sedentary lifestyle. This book beaks it down to a cellular level and links all of these factors to telomere length/damage which is then lined to early onset of aging, disease and even death. There are some really great, easy to follow tips to support your telomeres and be healthier in general. I was pretty shocked by how effective meditation is in keeping your telomeres healthy. I’ve always kind of rolled my eyes at meditation but now ’m going to have to seriously look into doing it because the effects are profound. This isn’t just some new age hokum. There is real science to back it up!

Several years ago I contracted Lyme disease. At the time I was a graduate student and under a ton of stress. Instead of fighting it off like it was the flu and moving on as most people do, in me it was much more serious and caused my brain to swell. I’ve always connected the fact that I was under intense stress with the severity of my illness but I never understood the exact mechanism. Now I can see that that period of high stress caused havoc on my telomeres and made my immune system much less effective than it should have been. I likely lost telomere length and years off of my life too! My focus now will be on protecting my telomeres and doing everything I can to keep what length I have left.

For me, the most striking idea was about passing down a cellular legacy through the generations. If someone is socially disadvantaged they have shorter telomeres which are then passed on to their babies in the womb. These babies with short telomeres become adults who have babies with even shorter telomeres, effectively passing the genetic legacy of poverty down through the generation, which each generation having shorter telomere and therefore more likely to face a serious illness and early death. This is just horrifying to me. It seems like an endless cycle and that people have no way to break out. Not only do you suffer from social disadvantage but your children will be genetically at a disadvantage to their peers right from the womb! Like there isn’t enough stress on pregnant mothers but now they also have to worry about harming their unborn baby’s telomeres. Of course they can’t worry too much because stress shortens telomeres too! It’s not quite that dire but if I were pregnant I would be very concerned about this. I would want my baby to have every advantage in life, including long, healthy telomeres. This underscores the importance of supporting pregnant women in every way we can to ensure that the human species will be healthy in the future.

I found the science in this book fairly easy to understand. I have some background in genetics and was a teaching assistant for a course in population genetics so I'm not new to any of the terminology or the basic concepts. I think this might be a bit intense for those who don't even have a basic knowledge of chromosomes but there are lots of helpful pictures to guide you through.

I received this book for free through a Goodreads Firstreads giveaway but this has not influenced my review in any way.
Profile Image for Nyamka Ganni.
262 reviews118 followers
July 13, 2021
First quarter is all you need if you don't know what telomere is. Rest is just plain old wellbeing advices you already know or heard of.

- Mindfulness meditation
- Healthy eating (calorie restriction, fasting)
- Cardio exercises
- Good sleep
- Less stress
Profile Image for Jo-Ann Duff .
316 reviews16 followers
January 4, 2017
Have you ever wondered why some sixty-year-olds look and feel like forty-year-olds, and why some forty-year-olds look and feel like sixty-years-olds? More importantly - can you choose which outcome will happen to you? Written by Nobel Prize winner Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn and health psychologist Dr Elissa Epel, THE TELOMERE EFFECT reveals the ground-breaking science at the heart of ageing and what you can do to help reverse it.

I guess the first question is 'What is The Telomere Effect anyway?'. Well, I'm still not sure of the exact science, but it seems to be, according to the book, repeating segments of noncoding DNA that live on the ends of your chromosomes. Telomeres help to determine how fast your cells age and when they die, depending on how quickly they wear down. Long telomeres are good, short ones are bad.

What does The Telomere Effect tell us?

We are bombarded with the next big thing in health and fitness every single day. Juicing, fasting days, paleo, butter coffee, kale, chia, and even unpasteurised milk, are all meant to bring us amazing health benefits. Is The Telomere Effect any different to the other books out there telling us how to dramatically change our lives? Well, it is, a little. The Telomere Effect doesn't tell us anything we don't already know. Eat well, do what you love, love others, meditate, sleep properly and keep fit. We are all aware of these things, it's just life, work, and temptation get in the way!

The difference with this book is that it explains in great detail the science of what happens to your body and the studies completed, which demonstrate why you should rethink how you live, if you live poorly. Be warned though, a lot of the studies were performed on animals, and I must admit I found this quite overwhelming and put me off reading some parts and learning about the specifics of how telomeres work. It's written by a Nobel Prize winner, so expect some credible evidence on these telomeres and the effect on the body, but please don't expect to find anything new about how we should live to be healthy and happy.

If you are into your science, or health and fitness in a big way and want to understand why some of us look younger or have a body that seems to age before its time, then you may get something out of The Telomere Effect. However, if you are looking for a 'new way' to eat, live, and be well, this won't satisfy you. There is no miracle cure to be found within these pages that has not already been shouted from the rooftops. However, there is some science and understanding of the human body and mind to justify why we should listen to some of these health and diet recommendations.

2 out of 5 from me

Profile Image for Donna.
3,975 reviews53 followers
February 17, 2017
While I found the science behind the telomere discovery quite fascinating, this book didn't work for me for a couple of reasons. First, I didn't like the narration. It felt like I was sitting through a first grade class. Second, the title was misleading. It read more like a self-help book. So much so, I thought this book was going to cover how to hold the fork and chew 2o times...to my total dismay, it got so close to that. I didn't appreciate this. I wish this covered the science and left all that simple nonsense out. So two stars.
Profile Image for Karel Baloun.
412 reviews36 followers
July 17, 2017
Many anti-aging, healthy living books share the same general advice: eat well, exercise, do less dumb harmful stuff. This book specifies the advice with written exercises and habit forming activities, and chooses its advice specifically from telemere verified research.

Blackmore received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2009 for her research into telomeres, and into telomerase on slowing aging. This comprehensive review of telomere research shows (along with articles in Sciences and leading journals) that she is still in the lead of her field, so we can trust that the (often common sense) advice she gives is scientifically rigorous.

The first half of the book explains telomeres at an adequate level of detail, and describes how their length both correlates with health or disease, and explains causative biology pathways for how short telomeres operate on creating disease. This is a 2017 published book, and much of the citations are for very recent research, since it is only after 2010 that telomeres have been identified as a key mechanism by which toxic habits and thoughts lead to a shorter healthspan!

The second half of the book, after a (scientifically validated) self-scored telomere length estimation survey, lays out an organized set of lifestyle interventions, a nicely clear path to protecting your telomere length, and repeats the benefits of doing so. The advice is both specific to telomere benefits, and written very actionably — a reader can immediately commit to specific behaviors and habits which will empirically improve his or her health span. One example how up to date and correct this volume is: the diet section intensely focuses on reducing sugar / glycemic index, which has become a clear consensus only in the last 2 or 3 years.

Encouraging and invigorating. Crafted with meticulous care and attention to detail. Informative and an engaging pleasure to read. Pages 243–48 present a new, innovative, cogent, concise method for reliably changing habits; I’m a psych major and deep into this literature, yet it is one of the best I’ve come across.

One popular comment dismisses the practicality of the advice, by belittling the questionnaire as saying care givers, people of color or hard working office people are just destined to die. That’s exactly backwards! Blackmore humorously quotes “aging is mind over matter -- if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” so the emotional and biopsychological reaction to the reality is what matters most for telomeres. No matter your life circumstances, the advice is useable and practical. On page 71 is clearest distinction between the life events and the emotional attitude or interpretation of those events, and it is the later only that effects telomeres.

The epigenetic aspects of telomeres over generations are uniquely meaningful. Mothers (and fathers, less) pass down the current length of their telomeres to kids, so society has a distinct reason to protect the health of unborn kids by removing stresses from pregnant women, as those stress are highly unequal by region, income, race, age and education.

Why doesn’t the book list chemical or pharmaceutical methods for just lengthening one’s telomeres, especially since therapies exist for the one-in-a-million people who have genetic mutations that mandate early short telomeres and therefore lead to early deaths? Because too much telomerase causes cancer, and all the research studies around this are still pending. Ironically, longer telomeres can be indicative of active cancer, and more telomerase can suggest frantic body effort to repair shortened telomeres — this greatly complicates research, and requires attending to the tissue sources of the measured outcome. In summary, let's just keep ourselves maximally healthy until the day when a medical treatment for telomere length does become available.

Great quotes herein:
“I’ve lived a long life with many troubles, most of which never happened” -Mark Twain (on anxiety)
“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it." -Dalai Lama, p120

Even if some of the lifestyle advice she gives actually lengthens healthspan by some other mechanism than telomeres, such as reducing inflammation or reducing lysosomes overload, that's okay... there is some correlation happening, and this is another reason telomerase boosting alone will not yield immortality. Tetrahymena doesn't have complex systems to maintain.
Profile Image for Thom.
1,591 reviews47 followers
May 18, 2018
Telomeres are one of the more fascinating things from research into DNA - repetitive sequences of base pairs at the end of each chromosome, because each time they are copies, chromosomes are shortened. This book, written by one of the original scientists involved, unfortunately focuses more on self help than science.

Telomeres start out long in children and get shorter as we age. As they get shorter, we are also more susceptible to disease - our protecting cells work less efficiently as they age. Blackburn was a co-discoverer of telomerase, an enzyme that can replenish telomeres to some extent. Rather than going deeper into the mechanisms of this, or why we can't just go around mainlining telomerase, the authors instead survey a broad range of activities and look at how they affect your telomeres.

So instead of science, this book preaches the benefits of exercise, fruits & vegetables, and mindfulness meditation, while also emphasizing the evils of stress, smoking, sugar, and processed meats. This in itself isn't bad, but the science is shaky. "Three studies showed..." out of how many performed? "We saw improvements..." details? I stopped and skimmed the rest of the book at this point.

Turns out Dr. Blackburn co-founded the company Telomere Health, which offers telomere length testing to the public. Perhaps a portion of this book was driven by that work - she has since severed ties with that company.

In summary, if you would like to read another self-help book, go for it. If you are looking for science on telomeres, this book contains only a fragment. I plan to check out a few TED talks by this author and hopefully track down a more science based work in the future.
Profile Image for Nuttawat Kalapat.
614 reviews38 followers
November 24, 2020
เทโลเมียร์ ถอดรหัสความอ่อนเยาว์ สร้างอายุยืนยาว
ผู้เขียน Elizabeth Blackburn (เอลิซาเบธ แบล็คเบิร์น), Elissa Epel (เอลิซซา เอเพล)
ผู้แปล ธีร์ ทิพกฤต
สำนักพิมพ์: amarin
จำนวนหน้า 464 หน้า
ผู้เขียนได้รับรางวัล โนเบล สาขาทางการแพทย์ มันน่าเชื่อถือขนาดนี้เชียวละ (2009) นี่คือเรื่องของเวชศาสตร์ชะลอวัย เรียกง่ายๆ ให้เข้าใจมันคือ
* คู่มือสุขภาพ*
กิจกรรมการเร่งกระบวนการ "แก่" ภายในเซลล์ของแต่ละคนแตกต่างกัน
กระบวนการแก่ชราในระดับเซลล์สามารถเปลี่ยนแปลงได้ สามารถชะลอกระบวนการนี้ได้ด้วยตัวเราเอง
" Elizabeth Blackburn ".
เอาง่ายๆ ว่านี่คือหนังสือวิทยาศาสตร์ ที่เน้นย้ำบางสิ่งที่เรารู้อยู่แล้ว แต่รู้ผิวๆอะนะ และบอกบางเรื่องที่เราไม่เคยรู้ ผ่านการวิจัยและทดสอบที่ค่อนข้างอัพเดตและเชื่อถือได้ เกี่ยวกับความลับในร่างกายของเรานั่นเอง
1. การกิน
2. การออกกำลังกาย
3. การนอน
4. สังคม
5. ปมในวัยเด็ก
6. การฝึกสมาธิ
มันส่งผลต่ออายุของคุณยังไงและแค่ไหน โดยการลงดีเทลในแต่ละบทอย่างละเอียดพอสมควร
เทโลเมียคืออะไร เทโลเมีย คือ - ปลอกหุ้มปลายโครโมโซม ที่ปัจจุบันนักวิทย์สันนิษฐานและทำการทดลองเกี่ยวกับปลอกหุ้มนี้ จนรู้ว่าปลอกหุ้มสามารถบอกอะไรได้หลายๆ อย่างมาก อยากรู้ต้องหาอ่านเลยครับ
- คนที่ควบคุมตัวเองได้ตั้งแต่เด็กจะอายุยืน
- คนที่เป็นซึมเศร้าจะกังวลนานมาก ๆ แม้เป็นเพียงเรื่องเล็กๆ เช่นการทักชื่อคนผิด
- ปัญหาของการหลีกเลี่ยงอะไรก็ตามที่ทำให้วิตกกังวล คือการหลีกเลี่ยงยิ่งทำให้เกิดความกังวลไม่รู้จบ
- คนที่เครียดจะมีเทโลเมียสั้น
- เทโลเมีย ส่งผ่านจากพ่อแม่สู่ลูกได้
- ดื่มน้ำอัดลมทุกวันเทโลเมียยิ่งสั้นลง
- นักวิ่งมาราธอนมีเทโลเมีย เท่านักวิ่งธรรมดา (ออกกำลังหนักเกิน ไม่เกี่ยวกับอายุยืน)
- การมีปริมาณกล้ามเนื้อเท่าไหร่เทียบกับไขมันในร่างกาย สำคัญกว่าน้ำหนักมากๆ ๆ
- มีคนเป็นเบาหวานบนโลก 400 ล้านคนนับเป็น 9% ของคนทั้งหมด (เยอะมาก)

- มีการยกตัวอย่างกรณีศึกษาที่เล่าเรื่องได้เข้าใจง่าย
- มีการสอดแทรกคำศัพท์วิทย์มาบ้าง อาจจะต้องรู้มาก่อนนิดนึง
- มีการสอดแทรก Tips และบททดสอบที่น่าสนใจสำหรับการประเมินตนเองอยู่ทั้งเล่ม ดีครับ ๆ
8/10 มีประโยชน์อย่างยิ่งครับ อ่านตอนแก่ตัวขึ้นแล้วจะเข้าใจ
Profile Image for Gordon.
216 reviews45 followers
September 3, 2017
The Telomere Effect was written by Elizabeth Blackburn, who won the Nobel Prize in 2009 for decoding the telomere, and her UC San Francisco colleague Elissa Epel, a health psychologist. The collaboration is an incredibly fruitful one, bringing very complementary perspectives to figuring out how to make practical use of what we know about telomeres.

Telomeres are the structures at the ends of DNA that protect the DNA during cell division, like the plastic tips at the ends of shoelaces. With age and abuse (smoking, stress, etc), the telomeres get shorter. When the telomere is gone, the DNA no longer works, and neither does the cell which it controls. Result: cell death or cell malfunction, which may result in damaging the surrounding cells, for example by triggering systemic inflammation.

The authors claim that telomere length is one of the best measures of general health. The good news is that telomere length doesn't just go in one direction -- shorter -- but can also get longer by virtue of repair by a repair enzyme called telomerase. The even better news is that you, the owner and operator of the body, can strongly influence the whole process by making better life choices. Key ones include:
* Reduce stress by using mindfulness techniques and lifestyle changes, for example
* Exercise more, especially but not exclusively by doing aerobic exercise (the more different kinds of exercise, the better).
* Avoid environmental toxins, such as household cleaners of the non-natural variety.
* Eat organic foods and follow a Mediterranean style diet. On over-eating and obesity: Body weight is not in itself a great predictor of health, but less belly fat is.
* Choose to live in stronger, closer community and do what you can to personally make it stronger -- help out your neighbors!
* Get as much sleep as you need, minimum seven hours.
* Be in the moment and stop pretending you can successfully multi-task.
* Create a sense of purpose in your life and be conscientious about following that purpose.

I think you get the idea, although there is much more than just the above, including great suggestions on raising healthier children.

The Telomere Effect is a science-based approach to longer, happier and especially healthier living. It's well worth your time to read and even more worth your time to put into practice.
Profile Image for Shaun.
Author 4 books177 followers
December 1, 2019
I'm surprised by some of the negative reviews here.

I will admit that the book is repetitive at times, and it does seem as if the impact of stress on telomere length gets more air time than it deserves, but I chalked this up to one of the two authors having a specialty in the field of psychology.

I also can understand why the conclusions are described by some reviewers as anticlimactic. Once again, we're being told to exercise, eat whole foods, get adequate sleep and destress. Ah, duh.

But, I think the strength of this book and the research is that while we've long accepted that exercise, eating whole foods, sleeping and destressing are good for us, we are only now starting to explore and understand the underlying physiologic reasons why. And anything that deepens our understanding is useful. I honestly don't know what people expect when they read a book like this? To learn that exercise, whole foods, sleep and stress management aren't good for us after all? Or maybe they are hoping for a magic pill...which is kind of the point. Magic pills don't exist.

Interestingly, despite an every-growing multibillion dollar health and wellness industry we've never been sicker or fatter, which may be in part due to the fact that the emphasis (sometimes misguided and sometimes on point) has been primarily on food and exercise. The role of sleep and stress is mentioned but almost as an aside. Yet books like this suggest that the latter as important, maybe even more important, and the telomere effect may be one explanation why.

In a nutshell, telomeres are a noncoding form of DNA that protects our chromosomes (the DNA/genes in our cells). Over time, the telomeres shorten to a point where they can no longer do their job. The result is cellular death and ultimately aging and disease. Research has identified various factors that impact telomere length. A large part of the discussion focuses on stress.

In the end, the research on telomeres only further strengthens what we already know: exercise, whole foods, sleep and stress management are all good for us. Surprise, surprise. But more importantly, it deepens our understanding of why those recommendations are valid and important.
Profile Image for Darya Rose.
Author 3 books140 followers
March 13, 2017
Honestly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. Was expecting a lot of science and little practical application, but The Telomere Effect offers some of the most practical and realistic ways to slow aging I've found in a single book.
Profile Image for Laura.
489 reviews24 followers
March 31, 2022
A life style book masquerading as a scientific one, titled "The telomere effect" that never once explains why your telomeres shorten every time a cell divides. This is what you're getting yourself into. Honestly, no need to pick this book. If you're looking for health advice there are other good books you can try. They can offer you the same information without lying to you that their advice is supported by strong scientific research. Now you might think I'm mean, but I actually know why telomeres shorten every time a cell divides (I too got a PhD in biology). I also happen to know that some of the stuff said in the book either do not constitute strongly supported scientific information or are flat-out wrong.

There are many problems. I listened to an audio version of the book, but I also went through an ebook. The e-book had several errors at one of the self evaluations ( you couldn't get to the max score no matter how you tried because the scores you are supposed to sum up were all wrong. The audio book actually had the correct information). And I have to admit I quit the audio book about an hour and a half before the end. I had stomached a bunch of erroneous statements up until that point. What broke me was the statement that your college degree will enlarge your telomeres. But I'll get to that in a second.

I realized I may have troubles with the book from the first chapter. The two authors of the book talked about what diseases are caused by shortened telomeres. No doubt age related diseases are linked to shortened telomeres. Asthma, however, is not. Yet that's what the first chapter seems to imply. Still because a little later the authors explain that correlation doesn't necessarily mean causation, or that the causation happens in the order we first hypothesize, I was willing to give them another chance. So a little later in the book the authors admitted that chronic diseases such as asthma actually causes shortened telomeres and not the other way around ( The reason is simple, chronic inflammation means cells need to divide more often than they normally would, which means telomere shortening over time.). So far the biologist in me was appeased.

Then things got a little weird when they talked about meditation. Still I had to admit that their idea about avoiding negative thoughts, stress and unhealthy eating were all correct and helpful. Weather you need to frame it as a telomere problem... let's just say I wasn't bought on that.

When they got to how depression can impact telomere length I started getting angry again. The authors seem to imply that depression is just getting trapped in a feeling of sadness. I never suffered from chronic depression yet I got angry at how inaccurate that definition is. You want a good book on depression? Try "The depths". Skip the depression chapter in this book, It is honestly insulting and potentially harmful.

Then we got to dieting. The authors wrongly suggested that dieting is not the way to drop weight. Guess what? Scientific evidence suggests that actually you need to restrict your calories to start dropping weight. It is correct that you should also exercise and tone your muscles. It is not enough to drop weight. Do yourself a favour, and read recent articles on the matter before you harm yourself.

And now let's get to the part that broke me: Did you know that not finishing College actually shortens your telomeres? Studies show that people who don't complete higher education have shortened telomeres. The reason? Well, it's actually explained in the earlier chapters of the book. If you didn't go to college, it's more likely that you live in a poor neighbourhood that you have poor social support and that you're eating an unhealthy diet. Did two scientists who should know about the scientific method explain this? Maybe they did in the chapters I didn't finish reading. But they strongly stated that not finishing College actually impacts not only your telomeres but those of your child as well. So practically, give up already! You've doomed yourself and your unborn children by not going to college! How could you? So I did what the author suggested in one of the earlier chapters: If something stresses you out or angers you just give up. I returned a book to the library and I was instantly happier. My brain stopped having seizures from so many incorrect musings labeled as science. And I could focus on my day and be grateful.

Conclusion: skip the book!!! I would give it 0 stars, but that's not available.
September 15, 2022
Book club choice for September. How to slowdown aging on a cellular level. Very science heavy, but I liked the way she backs all her information with published studies. Nothing profound, but a nice reminder. I’ll save you 11 hours. Eat Whole Foods, refined sugar is bad. Exercise everyday. Sleep a lot, and procreate with a partner who was not abused, molested or belittled.
Profile Image for Ivonne.
249 reviews87 followers
March 30, 2018
Me encantan los libros de ciencia que acercan el tema a un lenguaje sencillo, manteniendo su profundidad científica, pero sin hacerte sentir como un extraterrestre en un tema no conocido, éste es uno de ellos. En este libro las autoras explican la incidencia e importancia de unos pequeños elementos llamados telómeros (que se encuentran en nuestras células) y que son vitales en nuestra calidad y extensión de vida. Los telómeros fueron descubiertos hacer muy poco, pero su importancia ha sido confirmada gracias a varios científicos que determinaron que éstos se acortan o extienden dependiendo del estilo de vida de una persona. Telómeros cortos llevan a más problemas de salud, sentirnos y vernos más viejos, mientras que telómeros más largos pueden ayudar a una vida más larga y menos problemas con nuestros procesos. ëste libro explica la manera en que funcionan, pero también la manera en que podemos alargar nuestros telómeros a través de simples cambios: ejercicio, mejor alimentación, un nivel de estrés más bajo, etc... Todo, científicamente comprobado.
Este libro me abrió la mente a muchas cosas que intuía pero no lograba conectar y sin duda lo recomiendo para todas aquellas personas que sufren de estrés, depresión o ansiedad, es una gran motivación a tratar esos males y controlarlos, todo para llevar una mejor vida.
Profile Image for Sofija.
182 reviews
April 25, 2023
DNF. Life is too short to read books I don't care about. This turned into a snooze fest. I will not read a self-help book ever again.
Profile Image for Lily Nesbitt.
24 reviews
June 13, 2021
Very interesting, a bit too self-help for my liking but it made the science very accessible which I loved.
Profile Image for Sookie.
1 review
January 30, 2021
If you care about the how you look and feel as you age, you need to know about telomeres. The significant scientific evidence shows we have more control over our aging process than we might think. I was excited about this Nobel Prize news in 2009 and shared it enthusiastically with my yoga students then. This book is very accessible for the lay person and for anyone interested in the science backed up by thousands of studies that inform their recommendations. A few reviewers felt the book was, "telomeres for dummies", and "same old, nothing new". But I disagree. It clearly and concisely explains the otherwise dry science and tells a compelling story, along with pragmatic recommendations backed up by the most sound scientific research available. The research that shows we can protect and even grow our telomeres, is renewed inspiration vs. leap of faith or anecdotes offered in most health & wellness books.

For anyone who cares about living healthier longer, not just living longer, reading this book is worth more than paying for a miracle face cream, spa treatment or even a yoga class : )
Profile Image for Nancy.
924 reviews22 followers
March 27, 2019
Even though a lot of the stuff covered in this book is already common knowledge, I still gained some valuable insights. Such as, I always thought I was just the normal amount of jaded and cynical of people from living in cities and driving in traffic, but it turns out that my knee-jerk reaction to many stressors tends to be in the pessimist range. I don't neccessarily assume that people are out to pull one over on me, but I do have fleeting thoughts about people being careless, oblivious, even greedy and self-serving. These hostile stress reactions may be normal, but they're not necessarily healthy. I do need to work on trying to be more open to people, cultivate an optimistic attitude.

The book is filled with multiple self-tests to help focus in on problematic areas in your life that can be improved: sleep, diet, exercise, stress reactions, conscientiousness, optimism. I really liked the helpful handling of how to focus your thoughts, release negative feelings, and recover from a bad mood or ruminating about negative thoughts. Reading this book has given me a new zeal to try (once again) to start exercising; and I KNOW it will be something simple like power-walking, yoga for seniors, or qigong.

So, wish me luck and I will optimistically set out to walk more, until my knees give out....
Profile Image for Jay Dwight.
868 reviews31 followers
December 6, 2019
A subject I'd never heard anything about. Whilst a lot of the messages seem common sense, the scientific background into the why, I found very interesting. Written so easily digested by the layman, but plenty of references and notes if you want to delve deeper into the research.
Profile Image for Annie.
970 reviews318 followers
December 28, 2019
Telomeres: you know those plastic aglets on the ends of your shoelaces that keep them from fraying. Well, telomeres are the aglets of your chromosomes, keeping the genetic material from unraveling.

Telomeres shorten over time naturally. A baby has about 10,000 basepairs. A 65-year-old has about 4,800 basepairs on average. When telomeres become too short, the chromosome cells stop dividing altogether; they no longer renew themselves, and the person ages and dies.

Lots of things can affect telomere length, though--which means you can take steps to keep your telomeres as long as possible.

Anxiety and stress shorten your telomeres, but de-stressing activities like meditation, qigong, and yoga preserve or lengthen them. Likewise, social cohesion and sense of community are good for your telomeres; lack of sleep, or poor-quality sleep, is bad for telomeres. Eating processed meats like hotdogs will shorten them quickly; fresh vegetables will lengthen telomeres.

If you experience stressful events in your childhood (like abuse or poverty), that contributes to shorter telomeres. Interestingly, because children inherit telomeres from their parents' sex cells, this has a cumulative effect on families: if your parents had hard lives, you will likely have shorter telomeres. But if you have a lower-stress life, eat well, exercise, and engage in positive activities like meditation, you can build up your telomeres so that you give your children the best shot possible.

Of course, this isn't always possible, and raises some interesting questions about racial imbalance in the United States. Why do black Americans have shorter lifespans and poorer health than white Americans? Partially that's due to racist healthcare practices and poverty, but could it also be because for generations, telomeres have just been getting shorter and shorter? Think of the children of slaves, for instance: no doubt they would have very short telomeres as a result of the incredible stress of their parents' lives. And those shorter telomeres would be passed on to their children and grandchildren and so forth.

There are people who say that "slavery is over" so "why are we still talking about it." Well--here is one example of how it's not over. How its effects could still be felt by children born today.

Anyway, this is a great, reader-friendly explanation of what telomeres are, why they matter, and what practices you can engage in to age slower and live longer.
Profile Image for Mike S.
384 reviews35 followers
February 12, 2017
This book is about telomeres and how they affect health and longevity.

If you aren't very scientifically inclined, and want a brief, simplistic explanation of what telomeres are, along with a mostly self-help book about how to improve your quality of life, this book is for you.

If you like to read science articles, this book is definitely not for you, you'd be much better off reading online content. At most, find this book in a bookstore or library and browse the first section, you'll be done in far less than an hour, and save both time and money.

The authors, two women, both PhDs, worked very hard to make this book easy enough for non-technical people to understand, which I found frustrating because I had hoped for a few more technical details about telmoeres specifically, and genetics in general. Those details were far too few. Also the style is a little disconcerting, you never know who is speaking - until you come across one of these, "I (Liz)" or "I (Elissa)". That doesn't work well for me, having one main author, with quotes from the other, would have been far better. Also the book is really, really, really wordy, it could have been 1/4 the size and been far more effective, but the authors obviously wanted to sell a book, not an article, which would have been more appropriate. Instead of giving us more details about their scientific voyage of discovery, they decided instead to inundate us with self-help content. The self-help content is at least 90% of the book, and I would be surprised if any reader reads the whole thing, unless the book is actually placed in the self-help section. If it's in the science section sales will surely be disappointing.

I will not be reading anything else by these authors, they wanted a book and they got one, but it is a huge disappointment if you love science, they would better serve us by writing technical articles.
Profile Image for Roger.
209 reviews3 followers
February 5, 2017
Highly recommended to improve our quality of life!

This unique book puts invaluable information on the latest discoveries of telomeres biology about aging and the importance they have in protecting the DNA for optimal cellular functioning, all explained in a way accessible to the public. It provides scientific information in practical and simple terms that empower the public in decision making to optimize their health, longevity and quality of life. The most valuable part of the book is that the authors carry out an extensive research and integrate the knowledge from a mind-body connection perspective, resulting in many recommendations to lead a lifestyle that makes a difference in our quality of life, from the Fertilization until old age; topics on how to optimize our cell metabolism, improve cell regeneration, to prolong health, slow aging and diseasespan (autoimmune diseases, chronic inflammation in organs and tissues, Alzheimer's disease, cancer, chronic fatigue, etc.).
It also contains some super useful self-tests that assesses the factors that are known to damage your telomeres and can help us improve our telomere health. At the end, there is a Telomere manifesto, which I liked for the holistic potential and expansion of consciousness that it has, in which the authors propose actions to positively impact not only our families, but the community and the planet.

My gratitude to the Publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to review the book
Profile Image for Neil.
411 reviews14 followers
December 5, 2018
This entire book can be summed up in one sentence on page 265:

“But when you practice naturally healthy habits such as stress management, exercise, good nutrition, and good sleep, your telomerase efficiency increases slowly, steadily, and over time.”

That’s it. All right there. There is nothing ‘revolutionary’ in this book. Do cardio and sleep 7 hours a night? Ok thanks. There is soooo much repetition in this book. So many times they mention mindfulness, it’s like they have money in it. The same concepts get hammered over and over. And if they substituted ‘telomeres’ with ‘because it’s good for you’ it would really mean the same thing to the reader. I'll give it 2 starts because it's always good to be reminded of this stuff, but it's a magazine article not a 300+ page book.

And yes I ate 3 Fudge Stripes while writing this review.
Profile Image for Marsha.
Author 29 books712 followers
December 8, 2016
Have you ever met someone who didn't look their age (either for good or bad)? That's the telomere effect.

This clearly written and engaging book is about the science behind the mind-body connection. Many of us have known instinctively that attitude, disposition and lifestyle can have an effect on health and aging but Nobel Prize-winning Doctor Elizabeth Blackburn has discovered the biological basis for that mechanism. Telomerase is the enzyme that replenishes telomeres and this protects our DNA. When telomeres get short due to stress, we age more quickly.

Blackburn discusses the things that shorten our telomeres and what we can do to improve and lengthen our telomeres. Long and healthy telomeres keep us vital and disease-free for longer.

This book gives clear instructions on achievable lifestyle changes that can buy you years of living well.

Thank you Netgalley for the e-review edition of this book.
Profile Image for Giuseppe D.
274 reviews53 followers
March 24, 2017
meh, I expected more telomere science, while most of what I got was just advice that we already know about, don't stress, have a healthy sleep routine, exercise, follow a balanced diet etc.
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