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Mediterranean diet linked to longer life
The Mediterranean diet has been consistently linked with health benefits, including reduced mortality and reduced risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease.
It is characterised by 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 low intake of dairy
Telomeres sit on the end of chromosomes (like the plastic tips on the end of shoelaces), stopping them from fraying and scrambling the genetic codes they contain. In healthy people, telomeres shorten progressively throughout life, more than halving in length from infancy to adulthood, and halving again in the very elderly.
Shorter telomeres are thus associated with
lower life expectancy and greater risk of age-related
diseases. Lifestyle factors, such as obesity, cigarette smoking, and consumption of sugar sweetened
drinks, have all been linked to people having shorter telomeres than typically occur in people of a similar age. Oxidative stress and inflammation have also been shown to speed up telomere shortening.
Given that fruits, vegetables, and nuts - key components of the Mediterranean diet - have well known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, a team of US researchers, led by Immaculata De Vivo, Associate Professor at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, set out to examine whether adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with longer telomere length.
"Our results further support the benefits of adherence to the Mediterranean diet for promoting health and
BMJ-British Medical Journal