Thursday, December 4, 2014

In The News: Eating a Mediterranean diet may slow the aging process?!!

We are all looking for the fountain youth (especially here in LA!) as evidenced by the number and popularity of anti-aging skin care products on the market, not to mention the multitude of cosmetic procedures and surgeries that are sought out too!

In addition, there is increasing scientific research investigating anti-aging from the inside out...through diet habits and patterns. ( My colleague Cheryl Forberg RD wrote a fabulous book on this topic BTW!) And, an exciting study was recently released that adopting a Mediterranean dietary lifestyle could actually slow the aging process!

This study, released in the British Medical Journal, revealed that consuming the Mediterranean diet was associated with longer telomere length, an important marker of aging. Telomeres are repetitive DNA sequences at the end of chromosomes, which eventually shorten as we age. And shortened telomeres are associated with shorter life expectancy as well as increased rates of age-related chronic diseases. Therefore, having longer telomeres is a good thing as far as aging is concerned.  Data from 4676 subjects participating in the Nurse's Health Study was looked at in which all of the subjects, healthy middle age women, completed detailed food questionairres and then did a blood test to determine the length of their telomeres  The results showed that better adherence to a Mediterranean diet was significantly associated with longer telomeres.  No one isolated component of the diet was able to be linked to this result, but rather the dietary pattern as a whole (high intakes of whole grains, legumes, fruits, veggies fish, nuts and olive oil, regular but moderate intake of alcohol and low intake of dairy, red meat and saturated fat) was responsible.

The magnitude ot the results is limited by the design of the study, being cross-sectional, only measuring telomere length at one point in time and also the sample cohort of women was primarily of European descent.  The researchers point out that genetics may play a role in the variations in telomeres, but the impact of diet is very intriguing and needs to be looked at further.

Either way, there is A LOT of other positive evidence out there already in terms of the Mediterranean diet and it's health benefits, namely with respect to cardiovacular health and weight management. Anti-aging effects may just be another attribute too which is exciting!!

I'm pleased to note that many of my recipes feature the foods from the Mediterranean diet or center around this theme :) A few of my favorite recipes are Eggplant Stacks and Rice Salad!!


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