Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Mediterranean Diet And Telomere Length

The Study
A telomere is a DNA structure on a cell that shortens each time the cell divides. Telomere length is considered a biomarker for aging, because shorter telomeres have been associated with a decreased life expectancy and an increased risk of major chronic disease. In this investigation of 4,676 women from the Nurses’ Health Study, the impact of a Mediterranean diet on telomere length was examined. 

A score was created for each participant that gauged adherence to a Mediterranean diet. The score had 9 components: vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, legumes, fish, monounsaturated fat:saturated fat ratio, red and processed meat, and alcohol. Women with higher scores had significantly longer telomeres after adjusting for confounders. These results provide further evidence that adherence to a Mediterranean diet promotes greater health and longevity. British Medical Journal 2014:349:g6674.

Take Home Message
In the last decade, there has been a tremendous amount of research showing a real benefit to the Mediterranean style of eating. This study is unique because it uses a biomarker for aging, which has been associated with longevity and chronic disease incidence in the research literature. 

The results of this study were pretty impressive. The difference in telomere length for each 1 point change in the Mediterranean diet score corresponded to 1.5 years of aging. A three point change in score was equivalent to 4.5 years of aging, which is comparable to the difference between smokers and non-smokers. This study provides further evidence that a Mediterranean diet is the way to go if you are looking to reduce your risk of chronic disease and increase longevity. For those of you that work with me or have read my book, congratulations, you are already consuming a Mediterranean diet!


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