HealthDay News — Slower aging, as indicated by longer telomere length, is associated with adherence to the Mediterranean diet, according to research published in The BMJ.

The Mediterranean diet is characterized by a high intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and unrefined grains, olive oil (but a low intake of saturated lipids); a moderately high intake of fish; and a low intake of dairy products, meat, and poultry; and a regular but moderate intake of wine with meals.

“Observational studies and intervention trials have consistently shown the health benefits of a high degree of adherence to the Mediterranean diet, including reduction of overall mortality; reduced incidence of chronic diseases, especially major cardiovascular diseases; and increased likelihood of healthy aging,” noted Immaculata De Vivo, PhD, MPH, an associate professor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

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To examine whether adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with longer telomere length, the investigators analyzed data from 4,676 disease-free women in the ongoing Nurses’ Health Study. The study participants were given a score of zero to nine on how closely they followed a Mediterranean diet, with a higher score indicating greater adherence to the regimen.

After adjusting for other factors, the researchers concluded that telomeres aged more slowly for every point a person went up on the scale. However, according to the scientists, the intake of individual food items in the Mediterranean diet was not associated with telomere length, which shows the importance of overall eating patterns on health.

“To our knowledge, this is the largest population-based study specifically addressing the association between Mediterranean diet adherence and telomere length in healthy, middle-aged women,” concluded the researchers.

“Our results further support the benefits of adherence to the Mediterranean diet for promoting health and longevity.”


  1. De Vivo I et al. The BMJ. 2014; doi: