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Red wines aren’t the only things that can age gracefully. New research in the British Medical Journal suggests that the Mediterranean Diet is associated with healthy aging, right down to our DNA!

To determine the relationship between DNA and diet, Harvard researchers analyzed food intake and telomere length from over 4,600 healthy nurses using data from the Nurses’ Health Study. Telomeres, DNA sequences at the end of chromosomes, can tell us a lot about aging and longevity, as shorter telomeres are associated with many age related diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. Often compared to the protective plastic tips that keep shoelaces from unraveling, telomeres are thought to safeguard strings of DNA from damage.

The scientists found that people with the greatest adherence to the Mediterranean Diet (measured on a 0-9 scale using the Alternate Mediterranean Diet Score) had the longest telomeres, a good indicator of healthy aging.  In fact, according to the study, “a three point change in the Alternate Mediterranean Diet score would correspond to on average 4.5 years of aging, which is comparable to the difference obser

ved when comparing smokers with non-smokers.”

There’s no one “Mediterranean Diet” – it’s an overall healthy eating pattern traditionally followed through varying foods and flavors in countries around the Mediterranean Sea, from Morocco through Northern Africa to the Middle East and onward through Greece, Italy, Southern France and Spain.  Mediterranean Diets are characterized by lots of vegetables, fruits, grains (mostly unrefined), fish, legumes, and nuts, and less meat. Additionally, the researchers pointed out that no one specific food was pinpointed as the best, reinforcing the importance of a well-rounded, healthy diet. The researchers also found that people whose diets scored high on the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (a measure of healthy eating) also had longer telomeres, but that the association wasn’t as strong as it was for the Mediterranean Diet.

This observational study adds to the overwhelming evidence behind the Mediterranean Diet. Are you ready to get a taste of this delicious and nutritious lifestyle? Check out all of our Mediterranean Diet Resources, including our book, The Oldways 4-Week Mediterranean Diet Menu Plan.


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