A recent study in the British Medical Journal says that eating a diet full of vegetables, olive oil, fresh fish and fruits- a typical Mediterranean diet may stop our DNA from scrambling as we age. The researchers from Boston followed the health of nearly 5,000 nurses for over more than a decade. It was found that Nurses who adhered to the diet had fewer signs of ageing in their cells.
The Mediterranean diet has a popular reputation for cutting the risk of heart disease and other health benefits and is one of the most widely researched diets. These results reinforce that eating a balanced and healthy diet can reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
The key components – an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables; poultry and fish, rather than lots of red meat, butter and animal fats –have all well documented beneficial effects on the body. Foods rich in vitamins appear to provide a buffer against stress and damage of tissues and cells. And it appears from this latest study that a Mediterranean diet helps protect our DNA.
Why Is This Study Significant?
Until now, evidence that the Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of heart disease was weak, based mostly on studies showing that people from Mediterranean countries seemed to have lower rates of heart disease — a pattern that could have been attributed to factors other than diet.
And some experts had been skeptical that the effect of diet could be detected, if it existed at all, because so many people are already taking powerful drugs to reduce heart disease risk, while other experts hesitated to recommend the diet to people who already had weight problems, since oils and nuts have a lot of calories.
Heart disease experts said the study was a triumph because it showed that a diet was powerful in reducing heart disease risk, and it did so using the most rigorous methods. Scientists randomly assigned 7,447 people in Spain who were overweight, were smokers, or had diabetes or other risk factors for heart disease to follow the Mediterranean diet or a low-fat one.
Mediterranean Diet and Looking Young
The researchers looked at tiny structures called telomeres that safeguard the ends of our chromosomes, which store our DNA code. These protective caps prevent the loss of genetic information during cell division.
As we age and our cells divide, our telomeres get shorter – their structural integrity weakens, which can tell cells to stop dividing and die. Experts believe telomere length offers a window on cellular ageing. Shorter telomeres have been linked with a broad range of age-related diseases, including heart disease, and a variety of cancers.
In the study, nurses who largely stuck to eating a Mediterranean diet had longer, healthier telomeres. No individual dietary component shone out as best, which the researchers say highlights the importance of having a well-rounded diet.
But this diet is not something that you can follow a month and get back to your old eating habits. As the strongest association was observed among women who adhered to the Mediterranean diet and not just took it as another diet fad. Previous research by Harvard University last year involving 10,000 showed that women who followed a Mediterranean diet were 40 per cent to live beyond the age of 70. They were also far less likely to develop chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
The Cornerstones of a Mediterranean Diet
The foods that belong in a Mediterranean diet is controversial, partly because there is such variety between different countries. However, the diet prescribed in the studies are high in plant foods, and relatively low in animal foods. But, eating fish and seafood is recommended at least twice a week. The Mediterranean lifestyle also involves regular physical activity, sharing meals with other people and enjoying life.
~Eat: Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, breads, herbs, spices, fish, seafood and extra virgin olive oil.
~Moderation: Poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt.
~Eat Rarely: Red meat.
~Foods to Avoid: Sugar-sweetened beverages, added sugars, processed meat, refined grains, refined oils and other highly processed foods.
~Drinks: Water is your go-to beverage. You can include moderate amounts of red wine, around 1 glass per day. However, this is completely optional and wine should be avoided by anyone who has alcoholism or problems controlling their consumption. Coffee and tea are also completely acceptable, but avoid sugar-sweetened beverages and fruit juices, which are very high in sugar.
Mediterranean Diet For Beginners
.Sauté food in olive oil, not butter.
.Eat more fruits and vegetables by having them as a snack, or adding them to other recipes.
.Choose whole grains instead of refined breads and pastas like Quinoa or Barley.
.Substitute fish for red meat at least twice per week.
.Limit high-fat dairy by switching to skim or 1% milk from 2% or whole milk.
Helps Erectile Dysfunction In Men
Researchers found men with erectile dysfunction who adopted the Mediterranean diet – had a lower risk of having a heart attack or stroke. However, patients with erectile dysfunction who failed to stick to the Mediterranean diet had more vascular and cardiac damage.
Greek Doctor Athanasios Angelis, who presented his findings at the annual meeting of the European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging in Austria, said: ‘Erectile dysfunction is not a symptom of ageing, it is a bad sign from the body that something is wrong with the vasculature.
‘In 80 per cent of cases, erectile dysfunction is caused by vascular problems and is a warning that patients are at increased risk of a heart attack or stroke.’ He added: ‘The Mediterranean diet is associated with lower cardiovascular events and could be a way to help erectile dysfunction patients lower their risk.
Good sources of monounsaturated fat – such as macadamia nuts – can help men with erectile dysfunction avoid a heart attack. ‘Previous studies have shown that patients with erectile dysfunction have vascular damage, but we found that the heart is also damaged. ‘This may help to further explain why these patients are more prone to cardiovascular events’, he said.