I’ll Have the Nut-Encrusted Fish, Please

A study published in the British Medical Journal gives more credence to the good effects of a Mediterranean diet and at the same time offers more science behind why it’s so good for you. Studies have shown that people who eat a Mediterranean diet live longer, but this study is the first to show that the underlying reason may be that Mediterranean diets slow the shortening of telomeres in cells.

Telomeres are protective sequences of DNA at the ends of chromosomes. Each time a cell in your body divides — renewing that part of you — the telomeres in the cell get shorter. When they’re gone, so are you. As we age, telomere shortening is associated with a deterioration of overall health. Cancer cells, by contrast, do not have telomeres that shorten when cells divide.

A Mediterranean diet simply means eating fewer dairy products and meats and eating more vegetables, nuts, fruits, legumes, fish and olive oil. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of olive oil, nuts, fruits and vegetables have been established by other research.

The telomere findings come from one of the most famous ongoing health studies in the world — the Nurses’ Health Study, which has followed 120,000 nurses since 1976. This particular piece of research used a population of 4,676 middle-aged women from the study who appear to be healthy. They responded to a diet questionnaire and then had their blood analyzed for telomere lengths. The study compensated for other causes like being overweight, amount of exercise each woman gets and smoking.

The difference between women who adhered to a Mediterranean diet and those who didn’t was as consequential as the health differences between women who smoked and didn’t smoke. That’s a very powerful result.

No one has yet studied if some foods in the Mediterranean diet are larger drivers of health outcomes than others.

To a bright future,

Stephen Petranek
for The Daily Reckoning

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Stephen Petranek

Stephen Petranek’s career of over 40 years in the publishing world is marked by numerous prizes and awards for excellent writing on science, nature, technology, politics, economics and more. He has been editor-in-chief of the Miami Herald’s prestigious Sunday magazine, Tropic, and has covered a wide range of topics for Time Inc.’s Life magazine. His...

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