Originally published December 15 2014
Mediterranean diet slows cellular aging, study shows
by Jennifer Lilley
(NaturalNews) It's no secret that the quest for maintaining longevity is a long sought-after goal for many people. A bevy of options exist, from certain exercise regimens and essential oils to fad diets and creams, many of which promise to keep aging and overall health decline at bay. However, according to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal, people need look not further than the Mediterranean diet if they want to try to live longer, healthier lives.
United States researchers discovered that the diet, which primarily focuses on fresh fish, fruits, olive oil and vegetables, is linked to longer telomere length. To simplify, a longer telomere length plays an essential role in protecting the chromosomes in DNA from losing genetic information that is typically lost during the aging process. Death of cells and shorter telomere length go hand in hand; often an indicator of an increased likelihood of developing heart disease, high blood pressure and strokes.
"Largest population-based study" reinforces benefits of Mediterranean dietThe findings were part of an ongoing study going back to the 1970s that ultimately assessed over 5,000 healthy, middle-aged women. Blood tests and questionnaires based on their dietary lifestyle ultimately showed that those enjoying a Mediterranean diet tended to have longer telomeres. This showed that the diet was an important factor in slowing cellular aging.
"To our knowledge, this is the largest population-based study specifically addressing the association between Mediterranean diet adherence and telomere length in healthy, middle-aged women," the researchers noted. "Our results further support the benefits of adherence to the Mediterranean diet for promoting health and longevity." The authors wrote that " ... greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet was significantly associated with longer leukocyte telomere length, a marker of biological aging. Our results further support the health benefits of adherence to the Mediterranean diet."
The study, titled "Mediterranean diet and telomere length in Nurses' Health Study: population based cohort study," noted that several benefits of the Mediterranean diet are already known such as its role in reducing chronic diseases and reducing mortality. However, of their particular study, they explained that it adds the following to previously-discovered findings:
-Greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with longer telomeres
-Telomere length variability may be partially explained by lifestyle practices; as accelerated telomere attrition may underlie many chronic diseases, identifying modifiable factors that affect telomere dynamics is important
-The results further support the benefits of adherence to the Mediterranean diet for promoting health and longevity
What to eat to enjoy the Mediterranean dietThe researchers noted that the nuts, olive oil and fish common in the Mediterranean diet provide anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits to the body that help diminish the inflammation and related oxidative stress that tampers with telomere length.
More from the British Medical Journal states:
... variability of telomere length may be partially explained by lifestyle practices, including dietary patterns. As accelerated telomere attrition may underlie many chronic diseases, identifying modifiable factors that affect telomere dynamics is important. Given that fruits, vegetables, and nuts, key components of the Mediterranean diet, have well known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, and that telomere length is affected by both of these processes, we hypothesized that greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet would be associated with longer telomere length.
So healthy is the Mediterranean diet that the Mayo Clinic also touts its benefits, reinforcing its role in staving off health conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, heart disease and cancer. They explain that the foods involved in this way of eating mimic that of the dietary habits typical to residents of Greece who often consume about six servings daily of antioxidant-rich vegetables and fruits.
Eating mostly plant-based foods, limiting or avoiding red meat and instead having more fish and poultry twice weekly (at a minimum) and enjoying healthy fats like those found in olive oils and nuts serve as the foundation for this longevity diet.
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