Is the Mediterranean diet the way to a long life?

The main conclusions of scientists are as follows:

  • In women who followed the Mediterranean diet, a “biological marker” was found in the body, which indicates a slowdown in the aging process;
  • The Mediterranean diet has been confirmed to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in women;
  • Next in line is a study that will allow us to find out how such a diet affects men.

The Mediterranean diet is rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, daily consumption of legumes and peas, and includes whole grains, olive oil and fish. This diet is very low in dairy, meat, and saturated fat. The consumption of dry wine, in small quantities, is not prohibited in it.

It has been repeatedly confirmed by scientific studies that the Mediterranean diet has a positive effect on health. For example, it helps to fight excess weight and reduces the risk of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases.

The new Nurses’ HealthStudy, which confirms this, was based on interviews and blood tests from 4,676 healthy middle-aged women (following the Mediterranean diet). Data for this study have been collected regularly since 1976 (– Vegetarian).

The study, in particular, provided new information – all of these women were found to have longer “telomeres” – complex formations in chromosomes – thread-like structures that contain DNA. The telomere is located at the end of the chromosome and represents a kind of “protective cap” that prevents damage to the entire structure as a whole. We can say that telomeres protect the genetic information of a person.

Even in healthy people, telomeres shorten with age, which contributes to the aging process, leads to a shorter life expectancy, opens the door to diseases such as vascular sclerosis and some types of cancer, and negatively affects the health of the liver.

Scientists have noticed that unhealthy lifestyles – including smoking, being overweight and obese, and drinking large amounts of sugar-sweetened beverages – can lead to an early shortening of telomeres. Also, scientists believe that oxidative stress and inflammation can also prematurely shorten telomeres.

At the same time, fruits, vegetables, olive oil and nuts – key ingredients of the Mediterranean diet – are known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. A group of American researchers led by De Vivo suggested that women who follow such a diet may have longer telomeres, and this hypothesis was confirmed.

“To date, this is the largest study conducted to identify the association of the Mediterranean diet with telomere length in healthy middle-aged women,” the scientists noted in the abstract of the report following the results of the work.

The study included regular completion of detailed food questionnaires and blood tests (to determine the length of telomeres).

Each participant was asked to rate her diet for compliance with the principles of the Mediterranean, on a scale from zero to nine, and the results of the experiment were able to establish that each item on the scale corresponds to 1.5 years of telomere shortening. (- Vegetarian).

The gradual shortening of telomeres is an irreversible process, but “a healthy lifestyle can help prevent their accelerated shortening,” says Dr. De Vivo. Since the Mediterranean diet has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on the body, following it “may offset the negative effects of smoking and obesity,” the doctor concludes.

Scientific evidence confirms that there are “great health benefits and increased life expectancy as a result of following the Mediterranean diet. There was a reduction in the risk of mortality and the likelihood of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases.”

So far, individual foods in the Mediterranean diet have not been linked to such effects. Scientists believe that perhaps the entire diet as a whole is the main factor (at the moment, exclude the content of individual “superfoods” in this diet). Whatever the case, De Vivo and her research team hope, through additional research, to find out which components of the Mediterranean diet have the most beneficial effect on telomere length.

Dr. Peter Nilson, Professor at the Research Unit for Cardiovascular Diseases at the University of Lund (Sweden), wrote an accompanying article to the results of this study. He suggests that both telomere length and eating habits may have genetic causes. Nilson believes that although these studies are inspiring, going forward “the possibility of relationships between genetics, diet and gender” (- Vegetarian) should be considered. Research into the effects of the Mediterranean diet on men is thus a matter of the future.

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