The Mediterranean diet is an eating pattern typical of populations living near the Mediterranean Sea (southern Europe) and have several elements in common, as the dominant consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish and olive oil. The health benefits of the Mediterranean diet are already well evidenced in several scientific papers, which show effects such as mortality reduction, increased longevity and reducing chronic diseases.
Results from a new survey have been added to this already large contingent of scientific evidence in favour of this diet. The novelty of this new study is the genetic approach to the effects of the Mediterranean diet. The research, published on 2 December in the journal British Medical Journal, aimed to examine whether there is any association between adherence to the Mediterranean diet and size of Telomeres.
Telomeres are biomarkers of aging and consist of repetitive DNA sequences in the final portions of chromosomes.
Telomeres are suffering a weakening by natural processes of cell division, becoming progressively smaller with age, which is why they work as a marker of longevity. The weakening of Telomeres can be accelerated by oxidative stress and inflammation. Short Telomeres are associated with a lower life expectancy and a higher probability of the individual develop age-related chronic diseases. Some studies suggest that the pattern of weakening of Telomeres is modifiable and that lifestyle-related factors can act on your shortening, regardless of age.
The research analyzed data from 4676 healthy women who responded to a detailed questionnaire on nutrition, being assigned a score of 0 to 9 for the adherence to the Mediterranean diet (9 representing greater grip) and did a blood test, from which was extracted the length measurement of Leukocyte Telomeres.
Beyond age (younger women showed greater Telomeres) there was a significant association between the length of Telomeres with adherence to the Mediterranean diet. Each point in the diet score corresponded to a reduction of 1.5 year in age of the Telomere. Interestingly, there was no association between the intake of dietary items eaten individually, suggesting that the favorable effect is only achieved with the set of elements of the diet.