Do you know about the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet? Countless studies have linked this way of eating—which focuses on consuming plenty of healthy fats (especially from fish and olive oil), leafy green veggies, low-sugar fruits, nuts and legumes—to improved cardiovascular health, along with healthy blood sugar, weight management and more. Now, scientists believe it may also be linked to healthy aging.
Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston examined more than 4,500 adult women and found that the chromosomes of those who followed a Mediterranean-style diet had longer telomeres, which are associated with longer life expectancy and a lower risk of age-related disease. Telomeres are the protective structures at the end of our chromosomes that safeguard important genetic information from being destroyed as we age.
While the study authors plan to explore their findings further, in part to determine if the effects are similar in men, they agree there is a clear link between certain dietary habits and healthier aging.
“The health benefits of greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet—reduction of overall mortality, increased longevity and reduced incidence of chronic diseases, especially major cardiovascular diseases—have been consistently demonstrated,” said senior author Dr. Immaculata De Vivo in a recent article. She went on to say the results of this new study further support the health benefits of adhering to a Mediterranean diet.
We know from past research that fish-derived Omega-3 fatty acids provide a multitude of health benefits for the whole body—from supporting the heart, brain and nervous system to protecting our eyes and joints. Now, three new studies spotlight the role of Omega-3 fish oil in a healthy diet and why we should consume more of these healthy fats and fewer saturated and trans fats.
Fish Oil May Protect Against Diabetes
Past evidence has shown that fatty fish consumption can help protect against diabetes by having a positive effect on glucose metabolism. In a recent study conducted by scientists in Sweden, similar results were seen in the case of latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA), which shares characteristics of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes including weight gain and insulin resistance. They found that one or more servings of fatty fish per week consumption was indeed associated with a reduced risk of LADA.
Omega-3 Fats Linked to Increased Brain Volume
Scientists no longer believe that age-related brain shrinkage and nerve cell death is irreversible. In fact, a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that older adults who consume high amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids showed signs of new tissue development and an increase in gray matter—the areas of the brain involved in memory, emotions, muscle control, sensory perception and decision making.
Americans Still Eating Too Many Unhealthy Fats
Results of a new long-term study published last month in the Journal of the American Heart Association show that although consumption of saturated fats and trans fats have declined in the last three decades, Americans are still consuming far more unhealthy fats than experts recommend. The American Heart Association recommends limiting trans fats to one percent (or less) of total calories consumed and saturated fats to between five and six percent of total calories, while at the same time increasing the amount of healthy Omega-3 fats consumed from fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring.