Preventative health benefits have been consistently associated with the Mediterranean diet which consists of a high intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes (such as peas, beans and lentils), and (mainly unrefined) grains; a high intake of olive oil but a low intake of saturated fats; a moderately high intake of fish, a low intake of dairy products, meat and poultry; and regular but moderate intake of alcohol (specifically wine with meals).
Now a new study has linked the Mediterranean diet to a longer life due to its influence on telomeres. Telomeres are present on the end of chromosomes. Short telomeres have been linked to a lower life expectancy and in increased risk of age-related disease. Smoking, obesity and consuming sugar sweetened beverages have all been associated with shorter telomeres. The immune response such as oxidative stress and inflammation have also been shown to speed up telomere shortening.
The study analyzed data on 4,676 healthy middle-aged women from the Nurses’ Health Study — an ongoing study tracking the health of more than 120,000 US nurses since 1976. Participants completed detailed food questionnaires and had a blood test to measure telomere length.
A diet score ranging from 0-9 points was calculated for each participant, with a higher score representing a closer resemblance to the Mediterranean diet.
Research participants completed detailed food questionnaires and had a blood test to measure telomere length. A diet score ranging from 0-9 points was calculated for each participant, with a higher score representing a closer resemblance to the Mediterranean diet.
The research findings revealed that longer telomere length was correlated with greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet and the researchers commented that this study was the largest population-based study specifically addressing the association between Mediterranean diet adherence and telomere length in healthy, middle-aged women.
M. Crous-Bou, T. T. Fung, J. Prescott, B. Julin, M. Du, Q. Sun, K. M. Rexrode, F. B. Hu, I. De Vivo. Mediterranean diet and telomere length in Nurses’ Health Study: population based cohort study. BMJ, 2014; 349 (dec02 5): g6674 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.g6674
P. M. Nilsson. Mediterranean diet and telomere length. BMJ, 2014; 349 (dec02 8): g6843 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.g6843