If you'd like to live longer, stock up on olive oil: Researchers say that eating a Mediterranean diet could lead to a moderately longer life span.
Their study looked at nutritional data from 4,676 women participating in the Harvard Nurses' Health Study, The Boston Globe reports. Women who ate items from the Mediterranean diet had longer telomeres, which protect the end of a cell's chromosomes and shorten over time. Fish, vegetables, and wine — all staples of the Mediterranean diet — are high in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory effects, which could correlate with the aging of cells.
"We know that having shorter telomeres is associated with a lower life expectancy and a greater risk of cancer, heart disease, and other diseases," says study coauthor Immaculata De Vivo, associate professor of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital. "Certain lifestyle factors like obesity, sugary sodas, and smoking have been found to accelerate telomere shortening, and now our research suggests the Mediterranean diet can slow this shortening."
Researchers found that women who ate healthy items like chicken, vegetables, and fruits also had longer telomeres than women who ate fried foods, hamburgers, bacon, and sweets. Those who ate the Mediterranean diet had the longest telomeres on average. The findings were published Tuesday in the British Medical Journal.