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Mediterranean diet just might keep our DNA younger

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Could a Mediterranean diet keep our DNA healthier?

We all know we're going to grow older, but doing so gracefully is a challenge. Researchers have discovered eating a Mediterranean diet could have an anti-aging effect that happens at a cellular level. In a first study, scientists have discovered something new about why eating Mediterranean foods like olives, plenty of veggies, healthy oils, nuts, seafood and lean meats just might help keep our DNA younger and healthier.


The Mediterranean diet continually outshines other types of diets when it comes to promoting health. Foods that are part of the diet are linked to reduced risk of cancer, diabetes, obesity and more.

Mediterranean diet helps keep DNA healthy

In a new study, researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) discovered middle-age women who eat primarily Mediterranean foods have longer telomeres that are DNA found at the end of our chromosomes. Telomeres serve to protect chromosomes from deteriorating, which is important for protecting our cells from cancer and other diseases.

As we age, our telomeres become shorter. It also happens every time a cell divides and in response to stress and inflammation from oxidative stress. Longer telomeres are associated with a longer life and decreased chance of developing chronic diseases that can accompany aging.

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The BWH researchers measured telomere lengths in 4,676 women from the Nurses' Health Study, all of whom were disease-free and compared their finding to results of food questionnaires submitted by the women. They discovered women who stuck mostly to a Mediterranean diet had the longest telomeres.

"Our findings showed that healthy eating, overall, was associated with longer telomeres. However, the strongest association was observed among women who adhered to the Mediterranean diet," explained Marta Crous-Bou, first author of the study. Even small changes in the women's diet was linked to the anti-aging effect of Mediterranean foods on DNA.

Takeaway from the study

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, does lend support to past research linking the Mediterranean diet to a longer life, but it isn't the final word. Large studies would be needed to show for certain why telomere length was longer in the women studied. We also have much more to learn about the role of telomeres and the aging process. The research suggests, but doesn't prove that Mediterranean foods can keep our DNA younger. But then again it's difficult to care that the study is inconclusive, given all of the past evidence that the diet is linked to better health.

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