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Eating a Mediterranean diet can not only prevent heart disease and lead to a longer life, but it can keep the very essence of you – your DNA- young, says a new study from the US.
The researchers from Boston followed 5000 nurses over the course of a decade and found that the mix of fresh fruit, vegetables, poultry and good fats found in olive oils protected their DNA from the usual ageing found in those eating a more western diet. Typically this includes more red meats, saturated fats and more starchy vegetables.
The vitamin and nutrient rich meteterranean foods were found to be a protective buffer against the unravelling of our DNA. The study looked at TELOMERES, tiny structures that protect the ends of our chromosomes, which store our DNA. These “caps” prevent the loss and degradation of our DNA a during cell division. Throughout the natural ageing process our cells divide and our telomeres get shorter, with structural integrity weakening. This can actually cause the cells to die. Experts believe now that telomere length is a strong indicator of cellular ageing. Coversely, short, damaged telomeres are now being linked to a range of age-related diseases, from heart disease to cancer.
In the study, those nurses who ate a Mediterranean diet had longer and healthier telomeres. The study also showed that no single food stood out as the main producer of healthier DNA, and so emphasises the need for variety and a healthy all around diet.
The British Heart Foundaion said that the results reinforced their advice that eating a balanced and healthy diet can reduce chances of heart disease. Heart disease remains the largest age-related cause of death in the UK.
By Robert Adam Atkinson