(CNN) — Eating a Mediterranean diet may be your key to living longer. That’s according to a new study led by Immaculata De Vivo, associate professor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Harvard Medical School.
The diet involves eating items off a menu that is rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans and peas, unrefined grains, olive oil and fish. It keeps dairy, meat and saturated fats to a minimum. And you can have a glass of red wine with dinner without cheating.
The diet has been consistently linked with health benefits that includes helping you manage your weight, and it can lower your risk for chronic issues such as cardiovascular disease.
This new research looks at data from 4,676 healthy middle-aged women involved in the Nurses’ Health Study, an ongoing study tracking the health of more than 120,000 U.S. nurses since 1976.
It found women who ate a Mediterranean diet had longer telomeres.
Telomeres are part of your chromosomes, the thread-like structures that house your DNA. At the end of these chromosomes are telomeres, a kind of protective “cap” that keeps the structure from unraveling. It thereby protects your genetic information.
Even in healthy people, telomeres shorten with age. Shorter telomeres are associated with aging, lower life expectancy and age-related diseases such as artherosclerosis, certain cancers and liver disease.
Scientists have noticed some lifestyle choices such as smoking, being overweight or obese and drinking a lot of sugar sweetened drinks can prematurely shorten a person’s telomeres.
Scientists believe oxidative stress and inflammation can also shorten them.
Fruits, vegetables, olive oils and nuts — the key components of a Mediterranean diet — have well-known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. The team of U.S. researchers led by De Vivo therefore wanted to see whether the women who stuck with this diet had longer telomeres.
By Christina Lee, Special to CNN – 3 December 2014
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