The Mediterranean diet appears to be associated with longer telomere length — a marker of slower aging and thus long life, a study published in the BMJ this week suggests. The Mediterranean diet has been consistently linked with health benefits, including reduced mortality and reduced risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease. The diet is based on a high intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes (such as peas, beans and lentils), and (mainly unrefined) grains; a high intake of olive oil but a low intake of saturated fats; a moderately high intake of fish, a low intake of dairy products, meat and poultry; and regular but moderate intake of alcohol (specifically wine with meals).
Shorter telomeres, which are located on the end of chromosomes, are associated with lower life expectancy and greater risk of age-related diseases. Lifestyle factors, such as obesity, cigarette smoking, and consumption of sugar sweetened drinks, have all been linked to people having shorter telomeres than typically occur in people of a similar age. Oxidative stress and inflammation have also been shown to speed up telomere shortening.