Researchers have inferred that sticking to a Mediterranean diet could be the perfect recipe for living longer and slower aging. A typical Mediterranean diet consists of lots of fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts, unrefined grains, fish, olive oil and wine in moderate quantities. Earlier researches have also linked this diet with health gains, most notably lesser risk of heart disease.
Tiny structures called telomeres safeguard the ends of our chromosomes, where our DNA code is stored. Every time a cell divides, these telomeres get shorter. Their length, therefore, is thought to be a measure of the age of a cell.
Though the findings of an earlier study published in the BMJ had pointed out that stress and inflammation play a major role in shortening the length of telomeres, it is now being suggested that a Mediterranean diet which is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, and may buffer that shortening, said the study’s senior author, Immaculata De Vivo, an associate professor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
Data from more than 4,600 participants in the ongoing Nurses’ Health Study was taken into account before coming to these conclusions. The participants were ranked on a scale of 0 to 0 on how closely they followed the Mediterranean diet. A higher score was indicative to a greater adherence to the proposed regimen.
It was observed that after adjusting for other factors, the telomeres aged more slowly for every point a person went up on the scale.
However, the researchers went on to add that the telomere length bore no correlation with the food items that make up a Mediterranean diet. Which underlines the importance of healthy eating patterns for longevity and good health.
“To our knowledge, this is the largest population-based study specifically addressing the association between Mediterranean diet adherence and telomere length in healthy, middle-aged women,” De Vivo said in a statement. “Our results further support the benefits of adherence to this diet to promote health and longevity.”
“Telomere length has been associated with aging — with longer telomere length, there has been association with slower aging, and with a longer life expectancy,” said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of Women and Heart Disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
She noted that unhealthy habits might have the opposite effect on telomeres, however.
“Shorter telomeres are associated with obesity, cigarette smoking and the consumption of sugar,” Steinbaum noted. On the other hand, “the Mediterranean diet is filled with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods in the form of fruits, vegetables, legumes,” she said, and “there is an association with longer telomeres.”
So not only can a fruit and veggie laden diet can boost our health, it can also act as a buffer for all the damage we inflict upon our cells due to stress and inflammation.