Mediterranean food
Mediterranean DietReuters/Albert Gea

Healthy eating may be the key to longer life. Latest research out on Tuesday shows that Mediterranean diet, a nutritional concept that promotes healthy eating, can improve life expectancy.

People in the study, who followed the Mediterranean diet, i.e. higher levels of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fish, nuts, healthy fats along with olive oil and moderate levels of wine- had longer telomeres than others who didn't stick to the diet.

Telomeres are parts of the DNA found at the end of chromosomes. They play a huge role in the division of cells and ageing process. The length of telomeres becomes shorter with each stage of cell division. Shorter telomeres cause cell death and ageing. Telomere shortening has been known to accelerate ageing.

For their analysis, Immaculata De Vivo, associate professor at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School and colleagues selected nearly 4,676 middle-aged women from the Nurses' Health Study. Food habits of the women were collected through questionnaires and telomere length was determined through blood tests.

The participants were rated from zero to nine, according to the nature of diet they followed. Diets were rated according to its closest resemblance to the Mediterranean diet. Women who scored high or who followed a diet resembling Mediterranean diet had longer telomere length than the others.

"In this large study, greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with longer telomeres. These results further support the benefits of adherence to the Mediterranean diet for promoting health and longevity," the authors, while concluding their study, wrote.

Researchers assumed that the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds in fruits and vegetables must have helped in this occurrence.

Certain unhealthy lifestyle factors such as smoking, obesity and higher intake of sugar sweetened drinks have been known to shorten telomere length. Researchers said that oxidative stress and inflammation also can be added to this list.

The study has been reported in The BMJ.

Mediterranean Diet-Other Health Benefits

Previous research has shown that Mediterranean diet can prevent risk of developing peripheral artery disease, blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, strokes and heart attacks. Additionally, according to experts, it can also fight Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's and cancer.

Improving the Life Span: Some Tips

Available evidence shows that some lifestyle factors can help live longer. These are the only things you have to do:

  • Say no to smoking
  • Stick to moderate consumption of alcohol
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain healthy weight
  • Think positively
  • Find happiness in married life
  • Have a good educational background
  • Stay away from depression