Not long ago, I told you about why the polyphenols in the Mediterranean diet make it a healthy way to eat. Now, we have evidence that it not only protects against heart disease and other chronic illnesses, it also slows down the entire aging process.
I've been recommending this healthy diet, which is full of vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, and unrefined grains, for years. And so I'm excited that a recent study published in the British Medical Journal has found that it could predict life expectancy and age-related chronic illnesses by keeping the ends of chromosomes from fraying.
I've told you about telomeres before, which act as "caps" on the end of our chromosomes. They help keep our DNA intact. Researchers recently linked aging to the length of our telomeres. They naturally shorten as we age, but we can slow the process. And, it turns out, a great way to slow the process is through the Mediterranean diet.
In this study, researchers evaluated 4,676 healthy middle-aged women. They had them complete highly detailed questionnaires about their diets and took a blood sample to determine their telomere length. They evaluated the questionnaires and assigned each a score from 0-9 that measured how closely the participant followed the Mediterranean diet, adjusting for factors such as BMI.
They found that the higher the score, the longer the participants' telomeres were. In fact, just a one point difference in the diet score was associated with an average of 1.5 additional years of telomere aging.
While diet was clearly a significant factor, the researchers found that no one component had a significant effect on telomere length; they had to work together. That means you can't just rely on a glass of red wine to protect your telomeres! The overall pattern of the participants' diet had to follow the Mediterranean guidelines for there to be a noticeable impact on the telomeres.
There were some limitations to the study, such as the majority of the women coming from similar a genetic background. But the study authors found the results to be "reassuring" and in line with what other studies have found about the healthfulness of this diet.
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I recommend you follow this diet, which is full of healthy produce, olive oil, and fish, but low in dairy products, meat, and poultry. And yes, it does typically include a glass of red wine with meals. Just keep that to one glass to experience the benefits. It's definitely a better choice than the sugar-laden concoctions that are linked to short telomeres.
The more we learn about telomeres, the more we are able to fight against the aging process. I'm glad this study gave us more information about why this diet is so good for us and how it can help us live healthy, energetic lives for years to come.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand
Medical News Today, 3 December 2014.