You really are what you eat. The British Journal of Medicine states that a Mediterranean diet keeps people genetically younger, with their cells showing fewer signs of aging. The study was conducted on 5000 nurses over a decade. Specifically, scientists looked at structures called telomeres. These are protective caps at the end of chromosomes that protect our DNA from losing genetic information during cellular division. With each consecutive division, the telomeres shorten. When they reach a critical length, they signal cells to stop dividing, which essentially leads to aging.
The nurses on a Mediterranean diet—mainly poultry, fish, fruits, vegetables and healthy plant oils— showed longer and more intact telomeres, signifying better protection of their genetic code. This directly corresponds to longer cellular life. The reports concluded that such changes over the span of the study translate to at least 5 more years of life. Keep in mind that this largely applies to prolongation of a very healthy life, since this kind of diet also protects against obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and cancer —which are the biggest killers in our society.
The results of this study are revolutionary —but they are not surprising. Numerous studies have shown that diets rich in antioxidants and low in beef and pork fats protect our DNA from oxidative damage. As telomeres are also made up of DNA, such a diet also protects telomeres from oxidative damage, which means longer, more stable telomeres and ultimately—a longer and healthier life. There is no doubt that the benefits of eating healthy food are limitless.