Harvard Women's Health Watch

Study links Mediterranean diet to longevity in women

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The Mediterranean diet consistently has been linked with an array of health benefits, including decreased risk of heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and cancer. In a study published online Dec. 2, 2014, by the medical journal BMJ, researchers at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital linked the Mediterranean diet to longer life as well. The researchers analyzed information from 4,676 healthy women in the Nurses' Health Study who had completed a food questionnaire and whose telomere lengths had been measured. (Telomeres are repetitive DNA sequences at the ends of chromosomes that get shorter every time a cell divides, and thus are markers of cell aging.) They found that a greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with longer telomeres, and that even small changes in diet made a difference. In effect, the women who had followed the Mediterranean diet were biologically younger than those who hadn't.

The Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes. Animal protein is furnished by seafood and moderate amounts of poultry, eggs, and dairy. Red meat and sweets are considered occasional treats. This study gives another reason to follow this healthy—and tasty—eating plan.

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