Measuring Telomere Length – The Long and Short of It – Featuring “The truths, lies and drama in the slam dunk world of Your Longevity Markers!”

ta-65-and-bonus_256Warning: this blog is long, somewhat complicated, very controversial, likely to make me enemies, likely to be 100% true and an honest reflection of my personal experience and likely to alienate anyone with a different agenda!  So be it.  Try to focus long enough to read it all, because it will do your telomeres a world of good and let you see a part of the world that “They” try to hide from you.  And this time “’They’ is not who you think!”

If you are in too much of a hurry to lengthen your telomeres, know this:

1) Longer telomeres are better than shorter ones.

2) The percentage of short telomeres is by far the most accurate way to determine your real biologic age.

3) If you really are doing the “right stuff” in your anti-aging program, it will show up as a “good” short telomere value and may not show up at all, with a median telomere value.

4) The Life Length assay is the only one that will tell your percentage of short telomeres – no other test on the market can do this.

5) A single test is a good thing. Two or more at regular intervals is a GREAT thing in deciding how old you really are and whether you are successfully combating aging (or, if you prefer, aging gracefully).

I have been both fortunate and fascinated by the topic of Telomere Testing. Fortunate in that I have been able to see the future of this technology first hand and talk to the people who created it, use it and improve it, on what has become a daily basis. I am speaking of the Life Length “short telomere” test.

The technology is fascinating, because among other things, it looks at hundreds of thousands of your individual telomeres, in tens of thousands of cells, in a small easy-to-obtain sample of your blood.  And while we are on the topic of blood, this is the only sensible way to measure your telomeres at present. It is the only way you get a close look at your immune system and how old it really is, while figuring out how old you really are. This may figure heavily in how great your risk of diseases of aging, like cancer, heart disease and infection really is.

You can see the test in action, because I filmed my own very recent Life Length Telomere Test and posted it on Youtube.

What is even more fascinating to me, is the resistance of some of the top scientists in the field in embracing this new technology.  I did not understand, until I realized that some of them were personally involved in another company with “competing technology”.  Now you may think that scientists are beyond bias and reproach in formulating their stance.  I found out in watching this whole drama unfold, that they are just as subject to the same emotions and weaknesses that the rest of humanity is – in spite of their intellects.

I will not name names, but here are some of the things I witnessed.

One super famous telomere scientist, who is involved in a commercial telomere testing venture, said he/she basically frowned upon business and found profit as a motive, repugnant. Now understand this is my verbiage, not his/hers, but it’s pretty dang close. That statement was rapidly removed from said web site, by someone who understood this kind of “anti-business” attitude will not stand on a business web site! This individual also said in a recent article that “short telomere testing has limited clinical value”.

This individual’s partner, another preeminent scientist was asked in a recent presentation, “What do you think of Life Length’s short telomere testing as developed by Maria Blasco?” Answer: “That seems to be the way the field is headed.”  Now to me, this is a quintessential scientist, because the answer was unbiased and irrefutable!

Yet, another top scientist stated that “median telomere testing was still the gold standard – not short telomere testing”. Same said scientist published an article, almost a decade ago, stating the shortest telomere, not the average telomere length, was the determinant of cellular aging.  Talk about an “about face!”

So there seems to be two camps on this issue and truthfully there is a lot of bias and opinion, to the point where some people are actually reversing the results of their own research, to support a certain agenda.

To me the “rightness” of short telomere testing is already proven and already established as the gold standard. I will tell you why I say this in a minute, but let me show you one more interesting and fascinating about face.

There are not that many companies that do telomere testing to begin with. One of the long-established technologies is called qPCR .  This technology is the basis for a saliva (spit) test that is planned for release, as soon as the first quarter of 2013. In their last press release, the very last sentence said, “And we’ll also be developing a short telomere test”. This company is made up of some of the same person/people who said it was not relevant and of limited clinical value.

Why are you all of a sudden about facing and saying you will be doing it too?! Maybe because that is the way the field is headed! To me that makes it very relevant and of great clinical value.

Ok, now you know the politics of short versus mean or median telomere testing.  Bear with me while I add my personal voice (yet again!) to why I think short telomere testing ala Life Length, is the most important discovery and technology to come along in a long time and should supplant any other measure of telomeres from now on.

First, it does give you median telomere length in an extremely accurate fashion, far more so than other technologies like PCR and even FLO-Fish.  If you go today and use the Life Length assay and then decide to go again in two weeks (there is no reason to actually do this, so be aware it is for illustrative purposes) you will get the same numbers for both median and percentage short telomeres, or extremely close.

With the other commercially available technologies you may see up to 1000 base pair variations in your telomere length. This is equivalent to 10 years difference! So you might find out today you are 5 years older than your stated age and in 2 weeks you could be 5 years younger. Wow, that is magic, right!  Nope; sadly, it’s inaccuracy.

Also, keep in mind that the Life Length assay is the ONLY commercially available test that will tell you your percentage of short telomeres.  And if you believe, as I do, in all the science that supports short telomere testing as the New Gold Standard, YOU personally want to know this number. YOU personally want to know where you really stand – what your real biologic age is and then of course what you want to do to improve it.  The Life Length assay can be reasonably repeated in as short a time as 6 months if you are on an aggressive telomere maintenance/ lengthening program.  Let’s face it; taking care of your telomeres is not a cheap proposition. YOU should want to know where you stand for real and whether you are doing the right stuff to fix or maintain these biologic time clocks. And, you should want a REAL number measured by looking directly at YOUR telomeres, not some calculated number generated by a probe.

You don’t get that from the other measurements, because none of them measure short telomeres.

NONE of them! This is why some of the individuals who are involved in competing technologies are racing to embrace this new technology.

Let me give you some individual results that I have seen in the testing I have done.

As you might guess, a lot of doctors want to do this testing. Many are so sure that they have done the right things to be healthy.  Most are not smokers, drink moderately, if at all, and almost all of them claim to follow a good diet and exercise regularly.

Well, as it turns out, many of them I have seen, have a higher percentage of short telomeres than normal, indicating an “older” biologic age than their actual age. In other words, doctors are among the most unhealthy people you’ll meet.

This usually provokes the response “THIS TEST MUST BE WRONG”. Then you ask them about stress and stress management. Then you ask them about sleep deprivation. Then you ask them about their residencies and their practices and their personal stresses and they have an “AH HA!” moment.

You see there is no free lunch. Mother Nature and Father Time don’t care whether you accumulate a lot of short telomeres in residency training program in your 20’s, or whether you do it in your 60’s. You pay the price of tough childhoods, tougher pregnancies, crazy exercise endeavors (Like the Canadian Death Race I have run!), lousy diets, middle aged Baby Boom New Year’s bacchanals, high stress American Dream jobs, the abominations of Big Pharma, Big Food and your and my own misdeeds!

Once you lose telomere length and accumulate short telomeres, a telomerase activator like TA-65 is currently your only option to fix those short telomeres.  Telomere maintenance, as with my Telomere Edge Packs, or the many multi-vites described as “telomerase activators” that have come to the market as copy cats, is also a valid option for many, who chose not to activate their telomerase for whatever reason.

But, for many more than you would realize, the Bottom Line is, all of a sudden, a few thousand dollars a year to help your biologic time clocks, does not look so expensive after all. All of a sudden, it looks better than a 4G portable internet service, a big screen TV with FIOS or some other technologic masturbation that you have to have, that costs you thousands a year and kills off your brain cells.

The usual scenario I see is that someone has already had one of the other abovementioned telomere tests that does not include short telomere measurements. They are often convinced they are “OK” because their median telomere length (the only thing you can get with the other tests) is close to, or better than their actual age. They are unsettled to find that often, they have a high percentage of short telomeres.  All of a sudden they are forced to honestly evaluate their anti-aging programs and revamp them.

Here are a few examples.

Subject A was a mid 50’s male physician who claimed to eat healthy, exercise hard and take a lot of supplements. He was not on TA-65 because his median telomere length as measured by qPCR, was a few years “better than his actual age”. Specifically he was 45 years old based on his median qPCR telomere length and his actual age was 52. Naturally, he was very proud of his superior make up and anti-aging program, which included hormone replacement and the most magical supplement of all, Vitamin D. Notably, he was on very low dose fish oil, no CoQ 10 at all and no glutathione, or glutathione precursors like N- Acetyl Cysteine.  He looked lean, although he lacked muscle. His diet was primarily vegetarian and he ran 6 miles, 3x a week.  He did not train with weights or do any resistance training, because “all the data point to aerobic exercise as the best”.  I won’t get into why this is not the best practice here, but if you haven’t read our ground breaking book, “The Immortality Edge,” you should, because we explain it all there.

This doc was shocked when his short telomere percentage showed him to be 60 years old!  At first he didn’t believe it, but then we went through all of the stuff I mentioned above. Ultimately, he was grateful for the information and made several changes to his routine, including much higher doses of fish oil which corrected his abysmally low Omega 3 level and you guessed it, Telomerase Activation with TA-65 at high doses.

But it works the other way too!  I got an incredulous phone call from a European doc basically saying, “How do you explain this!”  She was contemplating putting one of her patients on TA-65 and was sure he was a dead man walking. This guy barely exercised, kept no dietary restrictions, drank enough to be considered alcoholic and by rights should have had the shortest telomere of any person on the planet!!!

He was 60 years old, chronologically. His median telomere length was almost exactly at 60 years of age but his lower than average number of short telomeres put him at about 52!  How could he be getting away with it and what should you say to him next!

Well again, the detailed questionnaire that comes with the test tells the tale. In spite of this guy’s habits he is an optimist and under no stress. His grandparents died at 92 and 102 respectively and both his parents are alive, relatively disease free and active in their mid 80’s. And they both drink a lot!

So, this is one of those super lucky people who were 1) Probably born with longer than average telomeres 2) Probably has a superior antioxidant defense system, naturally 3)Has great genes and maybe even one of the super lucky people who have a variant telomerase that keeps his telomeres longer.

Now, you have the embarrassing situation of what to tell this guy, who breaks every rule and gets away with it!

Here was my advice to this doc, “Tell him he’s lucky, but don’t push it. Still try to get him to do exercise and drink less, because at some point it will catch up to him, although maybe much later than the rest of us! Make the most of your blessings and don’t abuse them and a low dose of TA-65, like one a day, is a great option at his age. And, oh yeah, check his Omega 3 levels, just to be sure”.

The final most important point to make is this: You should get another test in one year to at least establish two data points; now, and a year from now. Because, if you suddenly see a big increase in short telomeres, you know his “luck” has run out and he needs to behave like the rest of humanity to have a good shot at a long life and great health.

The final case I want to share with you is one that is public. As a matter of fact, it was picked by “Cell” magazine (yeah, it’s one of my favorites!) as one of the top articles of 2012. It tells the story of a famous scientist in the field, who decided to use the short telomere assay. He found a median telomere length that was “normal”, but had a significantly high % of short telomeres. Subsequently, he had his genome sequenced and found he had an unhealthy variant of telomerase, that was likely the cause of his worse than average biologic age.

Had he relied only on median telomere length technologies, he would NEVER have known that and never found his problem. Armed with this knowledge, he can decide how to fix it and knows to follow up with another short telomere assay soon. There is no other way he would have gotten what could be potentially life-saving information!

As I said at the beginning, there are some people out there who are going to be very mad at me for this blog. I am not trying to discredit anyone, or to disrespect anyone’s achievement.

But, I call them like I see them and short telomere testing is a homerun and that’s the long and short of it!

For more information about short telomere testing in the U.S. contact ADL Tests, or specifically

Dr Dave

P.S. I should add that the real thing that scares me is, much of the early work in the field was done using these inferior tests and that a huge database has been generated this way.  While it’s true that statisticians can sort out problems more clearly with big databases, there are bound to be some very wrong conclusions and underestimations of the importance of short telomere in these works. I think every major study in the field should be redone, using short telomere testing – at least in those studies that involved people. Barring that, only short telomere testing should be considered in future human studies. Remember, you get a median telomere length anyway with this technology and you actually look at real telomeres on real chromosomes like yours and mine!

PSS – If you want more science, read these!

PPSS I am not a paid employee of Life Length! I paid for my test (I actually paid more because I went to Madrid to have it done so I could tour the lab. The Euro vs. dollar exchange rate sucks – hence my higher price!). I don’t get a dime for this, but I am so convinced this is beyond valuable info, I share it with you so you can make your own decisions. I want you to be around to read my blogs a hundred years from now!

4 Responses to “Measuring Telomere Length – The Long and Short of It – Featuring “The truths, lies and drama in the slam dunk world of Your Longevity Markers!””

  1. 1 CMStewart January 1, 2013 at 12:38 am

    Thank you, Dr. Dave! I look forward to reading (auto streaming?) your telomere technology updates one hundred years from now! 🙂

  2. 2 wizardofis January 1, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    Thanks for excellent blog.
    What is cost of test?

    Stan Hobish

  1. 1 Cancer and Telomerase Part 6 | Dr Dave Unleashed Blog Trackback on September 22, 2013 at 6:11 pm

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