Slow aging with the Mediterranean Diet

In the Nurses’ Health Study, eating of the Mediterranean diet – one rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, unrefined grains, olive oil, and fish – was associated with a biomarker of aging, that is, longer telomere length.  Telomeres are repetitive DNA sequences at the ends of chromosomes that progressively shorten with age.  Shorter telomeres are associated with shorter life expectancy and greater risk for age-related diseases.

Obesity, cigarette smoking, and other lifestyle factors have been linked to shorter telomere length.  Oxidative stress and inflammation also assist in inhibiting or shortening telomere length, a marker for lengthy life.Untitled design (1)

“Fruits, vegetables, olive oil and nuts — key components of the Mediterranean diet —  have well known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that could balance out the ‘bad effects’ of smoking and obesity. . . The health benefits of greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet — reduction of overall mortality, increased longevity and reduced incidence of chronic diseases, especially major cardiovascular diseases — have been consistently demonstrated,”  said Immaculata De Vivo, MPH, PhD, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, in the December 2, 2014 British Medical Journal.

Data on nearly 5,000 healthy middle-aged women from the Nurses’ Health Study (the study that has been tracking the health of more than 120,000 U.S. nurses since 1976), showed that greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet was significantly associated with longer telomeres.

The women completed detailed food questionnaires and had a blood test to measure telomere length.  As expected, younger women had significantly longer telomeres (P < .001).  Peter Nilsson, MD, PhD, Lund University, Sweden, says the Mediterranean diet is the “cornerstone of dietary advice in cardiovascular disease prevention, and the fact that it also links with a biomarker of slower aging is reassuring.”

Charles T. Knowles is a writer and filmmaker living in North Carolina.  He has designed and produced public presentations by a Presidential Candidate, Politicians, Journalists,  Authors, Musicians, and fellow Filmmakers. 

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