The Mediterranean Diet May Add Years to Our Lives
- The Key is in the antioxidants.
The number of positive studies over the years makes it hard to argue with them. And though the original paper that prompted the headlines faced criticism, the researchers believe it is 1 of the best diet options available.
“Air pollution is hypothesized to cause bad health effects through oxidative stress and inflammation, and the Mediterranean diet is really rich in foods that are anti-inflammatory and have antioxidants that might intervene through those avenues,” said study author Chris Lim.
Researchers have been uncovering the benefits of this particular diet for years.
Research from Y 2014 also supports the diet.
Scientists in Boston looked at the nutritional data from 4,676 women participating in the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, and discovered that those whose food choices most closely followed a Mediterranean diet had longer telomeres. Telomeres are the protective buffers on the ends of chromosomes and can be used as a biomarker of aging; the longer they are, the better.
“We know that having shorter telomeres is associated with a lower life expectancy and a greater risk of cancer, heart disease and other diseases,” said study coauthor Immaculata De Vivo, an associate professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Certain lifestyle factors like obesity, sugary sodas, and smoking have been found to accelerate telomere shortening, and now our research suggests the Mediterranean diet can slow this shortening.”
The Mediterranean diet is not a specific diet plan, but rather eating in the traditional style of those living in Mediterranean countries.
It is characterized by consuming a lot of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes and unrefined grains. There is plenty of olive oil, but little saturated fat; a moderate intake of fish, but little dairy, meat and poultry. And while cookies and sugar are very limited, a regular but moderate bit of red wine is deemed good.
It isthought that the antioxidants present in the favored foods protect against cell aging. While the researchers did not find that any specific food provided the silver bullet, they suggest that it was a combination of the components that predicted telomere length.
The researchers scored each woman’s diet according to how closely it adhered to Mediterranean components. What they found was that each 1-point change in their grading system equated to an extra 1.5 years of life. A 3-point change, the study notes, would correspond to an average 4.5 years of aging, which is comparable to the difference between smokers with non-smokers.
The researchers also concluded that women who may have veered slightly from the Mediterranean diet, but who still ate a healthy diet like eating chicken and low-fat dairy products in addition to the Mediterranean basics also had longer telomeres than those who ate a standard American diet with red meat, saturated fats, sweets and empty calories.
Notably, those who followed the Mediterranean diet, however, had the longest telomeres on average.
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