With everyone still reeling from a Thanksgiving hangover, take heart. The Mediterranean diet, the one you decidedly did not follow last Thursday, is being linked to younger-looking chromosomes. That’s the health professionals way of saying it could help you live longer.

The Mediterranean diet is adding merits to its mantle at a blistering rate. Heart disease, cancer, cognitive decline and metabolic syndrome are just some of the diseases it can prevent, or in some cases, reverse.

The longer lifespan benefit is for people that stick to the diet long-term. I know, long-term and American diets? Come now science.

New research out of Harvard Medical School is lending evidence that people on the Mediterranean diet look younger on the cellular level. Using the ongoing Nurses’ Health Study, researchers looked at the connections between cellular aging and dieting. Telomeres, the part of the chromosome associated with aging, were examined.

The regions of the chromosome is a repetitive DNA sequence at the ends of the chromosomes that prevents the DNA from degrading. If you’ve heard of telomeres before, anti-aging scientists say they are the key to have us bouncing around the Earth well past 100.

Each time a cell divides, the telomere shortens. Naturally, old people have shorter telomeres, as do people with chronic diseases. Enter the olive oil diet. When comparing a western diet with the Mediterranean diet, people that ate the Mediterranean version had longer telomeres. This was even after factors such as smoking, BMI exercise level and age were controlled.

Before you start throwing back shots of olive oil, there’s a catch. It doesn’t lengthen your telomeres. It just prevents them from shrinking as fast. Healthy eating equals healthy life. Funny how that advice always turns out to be true.

Why does the Mediterranean diet protect telomeres?

Research suggests it’s due to controlling inflammation. A variety of diseases are a result of inflammation in the body. The diet is rich in antioxidants that reduce the inflammation. Fish, nuts, veggies, olive oil and wine are being credited with reducing inflammation. In moderation. I know what you’re thinking – I could destroy an almond tree and live forever? Not exactly. All about moderation. For now, there’s no one food that has been linked to the longer telomeres, so you’re left with eating a balanced diet.

If you are looking for a New Year’s diet resolution, you can give the Mediterranean diet a shot. Yeah, no way I’m missing Christmas dinner. Why wait? Procrastinate now.

The diet is rich in all the above, but leaves little room for red meat, poultry and sweets. I’m pretty sure your telomeres can withstand one Krispy Kreme here and there, so don’t go crazy strict.

The study is in the latest issue of The BMJ.


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