In anti-aging blog circles the answer seems to be YES, causing endless discussion of how people who want to take these substances and the telomerase activator astragaloside IV should time their doses so the effect of the expensive telomerase activator is not cancelled out. But what does the actual research say? I decided to spend a few hours having a fresh look at this question. Personally, I have resistance to forgoing the cancer protection and other benefits of resveratrol, curcumin and other phyto substances for days at a time in order to benefit from the astragaloside IV. I decided to focus on published experimental research results, not opinions.
To start with, as far as cancer cells are concerned the answer to the question seems definitely to be YES. Here are a few of the many relevant citations: “Resveratrol down-regulates the growth and telomerase activity of breast cancer cells in vitro(ref),” “Effect of resveratrol on proliferation and telomerase activity of human colon cancer cells in vitro(ref).” “Curcumin inhibits telomerase activity in human cancer cell lines(ref),” “Curcumin-induced apoptosis in human leukemia cell HL-60 is associated with inhibition of telomerase activity(ref), Inhibition of telomerase activity and induction of apoptosis by curcumin in K-562 cells(ref),” “Molecular mechanism of curcumin induced cytotoxicity in human cervical carcinoma cells(ref),” “EGCG down-regulates telomerase in human breast carcinoma MCF-7 cells,” leading to suppression of cell viability and induction of apoptosis(ref).” The tea polyphenols EGCG and EGC repress mRNA expression of human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT) in carcinoma cells(ref).” “Epigenetic and genetic mechanisms contribute to telomerase inhibition by EGCG(ref).”
This is just a starting list of research studies for each of these substances that make two central points: 1. The substance leads to apoptosis in the cancer cell line studied, and 2. The substance down-regulates the expression of telomerase in that cancer cell line. In other words the substance down-regulates the expression of telomerase induced by the cancer itself and leads the cancer to kill itself. Note that these substances do NOT lead to apoptosis in normal cells.
Although the research seems to be sparser for other phyto substances in my anti-aging firewalls regimen that are reputed to inhibit telomerase expression [like ginkgo biloba and ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)], the same two central points seem to apply to them as well.
So, what makes us think these substances down-regulate the expression of telomerase in normal cells? Looking into that question, my first observation is that while there is a great deal of research linking the listed substances to telomerase inhibition in cancer cells, there is very little to no such research on how those substances relate to exogenously activated telomerase in normal cells. A few studies jump out suggesting that these substances may do the opposite: promote telomerase activity at least in progenitor cells. For example: “Resveratrol reduces endothelial progenitor cells senescence through augmentation of telomerase activity by Akt-dependent mechanisms(ref),” “Immortalization of epithelial progenitor cells mediated by resveratrol(ref), “Ginkgo biloba extract reduces endothelial progenitor-cell senescence through augmentation of telomerase activity(ref).” A review study on cell growth regulation states “In addition, curcumin also exerts indirect control over cell division such as inhibition of telomerase activity. Remarkably, some studies point toward a selective growth-inhibitory effect of curcumin on transformed cell lines compared to nontransformed cell lines(ref).”
The bottom line of my mini-review is that I found:
1. What appears to be many dozens or hundreds of articles that answer YES to the question in terms of experimental results but only for cancer cells,
2. Several statements of YES opinion for normal cells, including opinions from reputable researchers, but without backup experimental evidence.
3. Virtually NO actual experimental research studies that say YES for normal cells. Such may well exist. It is just that I could not find them in the time I set aside for looking. My guess is that the opinions come from assuming that telomerase-inhibiting research on cancer cells applies to normal cells as well.
4. A few experimental studies that definitely say NO for normal progenitor cells. At lease resveratrol and ginko activates telomerase expression in some progenitor cell lines.
My personal answer to the question is “I don’t know because there is no published research on what these substances do in normal cells when combined with a telomerase activator. There seems to be no evidence for answering YES in the case of normal cells and some evidence for answering ‘NO, the opposite is true.’” So I am not going to worry too much about taking resveratrol, curcumin, green tea, etc. the same day I take astragaloside IV. Besides, it all seems to be working. See my recent post How am I doing?