Lifestyle

The Mediterranean Diet and Aging

By Wendy VanHatten

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Perhaps you’ve read about the Mediterranean Diet, one rich in fruits and veggies, beans, nuts, olive oil, and whole grains.

Research has shown eating this way has many health benefits; helping protect against bone loss and decreasing the likelihood of heart disease. Recently I read about the results of a new study. This one shows the Mediterranean Diet can actually help you live longer. How? It provides new clues about how the diet affects DNA.

Immaculata De Vivo, a researcher and an associate professor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard’s School of Public Health, explains she has been working on how the Mediterranean Diet works at the cellular level in her lab. De Vivo and her colleagues found that women who followed a diet rich in fruits, veggies, and whole grains, and lower in dairy and meat, had longer telomeres, the protective caps at the ends of your chromosomes, and a good indication of your biological age. “In reality, you might be 30 to the world, but you’re 20 on the inside.” And, that sounds like a good thing.

The investigation focused on nearly 5,000 women who were part of the long-running Nurses’ Health Study. They filled out questionnaires about what they ate and were given scores based on how closely they followed the diet. Researchers then analyzed the women’s blood to look at telomere length. And healthy Med-style eating, they found, had clear benefits.

“We know that telomeres shorten with aging, especially if they are exposed to a lot of inflammation and oxidative stress. The components of the Mediterranean Diet, like fruits, veggies, and nuts, are well-known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and counteract the effects of inflammation and oxidative stress,” De Vivo says.

Pass the extra virgin olive oil, please.

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