The findings published in the British Medical Journal included data from 4,676 women from the Nurses’ Health Study — an ongoing study running since 1976 that has been following over 120,000 nurses from the United States. The participants filled out food frequency questionnaires periodically (about every 4 years), and had blood tests for measurement of telomere length. The Alternate Mediterranean Diet Score was used to assess adherence to the diet.
The results showed that greater adherence to a Mediterranean diet — characterized by high intake of vegetables, olive oil, fruit, legumes and less red meat and saturated fats — was significantly associated with longer telomere length.
The researchers noted that oxidative stress can accelerate telomere weakening and the established effect of the Mediterranean diet on oxidative stress may explain its effect on telomere length.
The researchers concluded that the results further support the benefits of adherence to the Mediterranean diet for promoting health and longevity.