Living a long and fulfilling life is a universal aim. In order to achieve this goal, lifestyle decisions must be taken to reduce the risk of developing life-threatening complications. Following a healthy, balanced diet provides a robust defence against chronic diseases. Studies suggest one diet in particular provides a wide-range of health benefits.
One study sheds a light on how it may extend a person’s lifespan. The study investigated the relationship between the Mediterranean diet and telomere length – a marker of ageing.
As the NHS explained, telomeres are often likened to caps at the end of shoelaces, they are made up of molecules that protect strands of chromosomes from “fraying”.
“Telomeres shorten every time the genetic information in cells is duplicated. It’s believed that this leads to cell ageing and death,” explained the NHS.
According to the study, unhealthy lifestyle decisions have been linked to shorter telomeres. Oxidative stress and inflammation – key factors in heart disease – 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.
They analysed data on 4,676 healthy middle-aged women from the Nurses’ Health Study – an ongoing study tracking the health of more than 120,000 US nurses since 1976. Participants completed detailed food questionnaires and had a blood test to measure telomere length.