Mediterranean diet and longevity
People who regularly follow the Mediterranean diet
have increased chances to live longer,
according to a new American scientific research.
The study established for the first time that this specific diet is associated with an increased length of the telomeres
in chromosomes, which is a key biomarker in relation to life expectancy.
Researchers at the Harvard University School of Public Health and the Brigham and Women's Hospital
in Massachusetts, led by Associate Professor Immaculata De Vivo,
which made the relevant publication in the British Medical Journal,
analyzed blood samples from approx. 4,700 healthy women and, at the same time, examined their eating habits.
The analysis showed that the women following a Mediterranean diet had longer telomeres than the others.
Telomeres are found at the ends of chromosomes and they consist of the same short DNA sequence repeated over and over again
(like the plastic edges on shoelaces). Gradually,
and as the cells keep on dividing, they get shorter the older we get.
The faster the telomeres shorten, the faster an organism ages,
while the opposite happens when telomeres wear out slowly. Stress, chronic inflammation,
obesity and smoking are factors that accelerate telomere shortening.
The new research can supplement many others that have been carried out up to this day, which
highlight the multiple health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, such as the reduction of the risk
of heart disease and cancer, and premature death in general.
As Immaculata De Vivo stated, "Our findings showed that a healthy diet generally increases telomere length.
However, the strongest correlation was observed in the women following the Mediterranean diet."
In fact, even small dietary changes toward the direction of the Mediterranean diet
seem to have a positive effect on telomere length.
The Mediterranean diet includes many fruits, vegetables, legumes, olive oil,
nuts and whole grains, a moderate amount of fish and dairy,
low saturated fats and regular but moderated alcohol consumption, especially red wine paired with food.
In an accompanying article in the same medical journal,
Professor Peter Nilsson from Lund University in Sweden
highlighted that the Mediterranean diet is now considered to be the cornerstone
– in terms of dietary advice – for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases.
Also, it does not rule out that inherited genetic factors
are involved in how and to what extent telomeres (and consequently life expectancy) react
to each person’s diet.