Grilled Fish

Will a Mediterranean Diet Keep You Young?

A new study this week has the news media buzzing that following a Mediterranean diet can help keep people young by protecting their genetic code as they age. How can this be?

The study, published in the BMJ, analyzed the association between how closely people in the Nurses Health Study followed a Mediterranean diet and measurements of the telomere lengths in their white blood cells. Telomeres are essentially caps at the ends of chromosomes that protect the integrity of the DNA code that they store. As people age, telomeres grow shorter and mutations related to diseases of aging become more likely.

The researchers found that the people who reported following a Mediterranean diet more closely tended to have longer telomeres. This observation is certainly consistent with other suggestions that a Mediterranean diet can promote health and longevity. But it’s also worth noting that this is not documentation of a cause and effect relationship — it’s just an association.

A companion editorial notes that these data add to our understanding of how a Mediterranean diet may benefit health, longevity, and even cognition. A Mediterranean diet is becoming a cornerstone of dietary advice for cardiovascular disease prevention.

Will a Mediterranean diet keep you young? These data are are interesting, but far from definitive. Regardless, they add to the reasons to believe that a Mediterranean diet is one of the healthier patterns you can follow.

Click here to read more from BBC News, here to read the study, and here to read the editorial.

Grilled Fish, photograph © brownpau / flickr

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