According to US researchers, the Mediterranean diet offers a long life because it appears to keep people genetically younger.
Mediterranean diet’s mix of vegetables, olive oil, fresh fish and fruits may stop our DNA code from scrambling as we age, according to a study in the British Medical Journal.
Nurses who adhered to the diet had fewer signs of ageing in their cells.
The researchers from Boston followed the health of nearly 5,000 nurses over more than a decade.
The Mediterranean diet has been repeatedly linked to health gains, such as cutting the risk of heart disease.
Although it’s not clear exactly what makes it so good, the Mediterranean diet’s key components – an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as poultry and fish, rather than lots of red meat, butter and animal fats – all have well documented beneficial effects on the body.
Foods rich in vitamins appear to provide a buffer against stress and damage of tissues and cells. And it appears from this latest study that a Mediterranean diet helps protect our DNA.
The researchers looked at tiny structures called telomeres that safeguard the ends of our chromosomes, which store our DNA code.
These protective caps prevent the loss of genetic information during cell division.
As we age and our cells divide, our telomeres get shorter – their structural integrity weakens, which can tell cells to stop dividing and die.
Experts believe telomere length offers a window on cellular ageing.
Shorter telomeres have been linked with a broad range of age-related diseases, including heart disease, and a variety of cancers.
In the study, nurses who largely stuck to eating a Mediterranean diet had longer, healthier telomeres.
No individual dietary component shone out as best, which the researchers say highlights the importance of having a well-rounded diet.
Independent experts said the findings were interesting but by no means conclusive.
[youtube zbUzSotKUUc 650]
According to British experts, a Mediterranean diet may be a better way of tackling obesity than calorie counting.
Writing in the Postgraduate Medical Journal (PMJ), the doctors said a Mediterranean diet quickly reduced the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
And they said it may be better than low-fat diets for sustained weight loss.
The PMJ editorial argues a focus on food intake is the best approach, but it warns crash dieting is harmful.
Signatories of the piece included the chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Prof. Terence Stephenson, and Dr. Mahiben Maruthappu.
They criticize the weight-loss industry for focusing on calorie restriction rather than “good nutrition”.
And they make the case for a Mediterranean diet, including fruit and vegetables, nuts and olive oil, citing research suggesting it quickly reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and may be better than low-fat diets for sustained weight loss.
The lead author, cardiologist Dr. Aseem Malhotra, says the scientific evidence is overwhelming.
Inspired by traditional cuisine of countries such as Greece, Spain and Italy, the Mediterranean diet has long been associated with good health and fit hearts.
Typically, it consists of an abundance of vegetables, fresh fruit, wholegrain cereals, olive oil and nuts, as well as poultry and fish, rather than lots of red meat and butter or animal fats.
The article also says adopting a Mediterranean diet after a heart attack is almost three times as effective at reducing deaths as taking cholesterol-lowering statin medication.
A new research by the University of Exeter’s Medical School in UK found that eating a Mediterranean diet is good for the mind.
Scientists say people who eat large quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, fish and olive oil have a lower risk of age-related diseases such as dementia.
The research is the first systematic review of previous studies into the Mediterranean diet’s benefits to the brain.
It comes after research last month showed the same diet could help counteract a genetic risk of strokes.
The team, supported by the National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care in the South West Peninsula, analyzed 12 eligible pieces of research, 11 observational studies and one randomized control trial.
Eating a Mediterranean diet is good for the mind
In nine of the 12 studies, a higher adherence to a Mediterranean diet was associated with better cognitive function, lower rates of cognitive decline and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
However, results for mild cognitive impairment – the stage before Alzheimer’s or dementia, when someone could be experiencing some cognitive difficulties – were inconsistent.
Lead researcher Iliana Lourida said: “Mediterranean food is both delicious and nutritious, and our systematic review shows it may help to protect the ageing brain by reducing the risk of dementia.
“While the link between adherence to a Mediterranean diet and dementia risk is not new, ours is the first study to systematically analyze all existing evidence.”
Dr. Iliana Lourida added: “Our review also highlights inconsistencies in the literature and the need for further research. In particular research is needed to clarify the association with mild cognitive impairment and vascular dementia.
“It is also important to note that while observational studies provide suggestive evidence we now need randomized, controlled trials to confirm whether or not adherence to a Mediterranean diet protects against dementia.”