It comes as no surprise that a Mediterranean diet is god for health. Upheld to be one of the best-suited diets for people across age groups, it primarily focuses on eating plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and olive oil with minimal quantities of chicken and lean meats. Unlike other fad diets that follow impractical and unhealthy principles, the Mediterranean diet has the right mix of health and nutrients required for a healthy life. Beyond these is the latest study that following a Mediterranean diet prolongs the life of older men and women.
Telomers are essential parts of the human cell that strongly affect the ageing process of cells. Like the cap for a pen, telomers are present at the end of each DNA strand protecting our chromosomes. When the cap is lost, the pen’s quality might decrease owing to dryness of the ink and likewise, without telomers DNA strands might become damaged disallowing cells to perform their jobs correctly.
The length of the telomer acts as a biomarker of aging. As we age, telomers do become short causing cell ageing and finally halting their normal functioning playing the role of an aging clock for each cell. Shorter the telomer, shorter is the life expectancy and higher is the chance of acquiring chronic diseases. Apart from age other important factors such as stress, diet, obesity, lack of exercise and smoking are said to shorten telomer length. A Harvard study showed that adhering to a Mediterranean diet was linked to longer telomers and surprisingly it was not any one of the food components such as whole grains or fruits that promoted telomer length, but the dietary patterns followed by an individual.
Singling Out Specifics
While there have been plenty of studies focusing on the benefits of consuming a Mediterranean diet not many of the, have bothered to focus on older people as well. A study in Italy has come with decisive conclusions that following a Mediterranean-styled diet is the secret to a longer life. The study was carried out in two parts with the first study following up on 5,200 people aged 65 and older for almost 8 years. Every time the individuals followed the foods recommended in the diet such as fruits, whole grains or olive oil, the individuals were awarded a point. For every one-point increase in scores they were at a lower risk of death from all causes especially coronary artery disease. During this 8-fmediteyear study period around 900 of the study participants died.
The second was an analysis of a huge data pile and other studies which would have included almost 12,000 people. The analysis showed that every one-point increase in the diet score was associated with a 5% decrease in death risk. But all these are only observational and there is no causal relationship for the same.
Basically, the Mediterranean diet includes food components that can be included forever in our life such as fruits, veggies, nuts, grains, olive oil, low consumption of red/processed meat and alcohol. First Eat Right’ website www.firsteatright.com clearly introduces to you the advantaged of following this diet in the long tun. The added advantage of consuming such meals together as a family (That’s Mediterranean lifestyle for you) or along with friends promotes well-being and decreases stress, factors that can affect the length of the telomers!
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.