Racism may cause African-American men to age faster

Wednesday, January 8, 2014 - 03:43

Racism may cause African-American men to age faster


Being the victim of racism and internalizing racist beliefs may speed up the aging process, a new study suggests.

Research conducted on African-American men showed that those who experienced the greatest amounts of discrimination and showed the strongest negative attitudes against their own racial group had shorter telomere lengths, a sign of cellular aging.

A telomere is a sequence of nucleotides at the end of a DNA molecule, or chromosome, that protects genetic material from breaking down. Telomeres are often compared to caps at the end of shoelaces that prevent the string from fraying. As cells get older, the telomeres become shorter, leaving less of a shield for the important parts of the DNA.

Typically, telomeres lose about 50 to 100 base pairs each year, but other factors like stress or depression can cause base pairs to disappear faster.

“Telomere length may be a better indicator of biological age, which can give us insight into variations in the cumulative 'wear and tear' of the organism net of chronological age," lead investigator Dr. David H. Chae, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, said in a press release.

African-Americans are known to have a shorter life expectancy and have a higher chance of developing age-related chronic illnesses compared to white Americans.

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