Change Your DNA with Diet? Yes!

A new study shows that a Mediterranean diet protects DNA linked to longevity.

A special piece of DNA, called a telomere, forms a cap at the end of our chromosome that protects the genetic material inside. Longer telomeres offer more protection and are associated with greater longevity.

The study found that the closer people followed a Mediterranean diet, the longer their telomeres. In fact, those who ate healthier in as few as 3 of the 9 key parts of the Mediterranean diet had an increase in telomere length corresponding to an additional longevity of 4.5 years!

These results make sense since inflammation is known to shorten telomeres and, the Mediterranean diet, loaded with naturally protective compounds, is strongly anti-inflammatory.

But, there’s more! In an emerging field called “epigenetics”, it has been shown that genes are not necessarily destined to act in a certain way, but can be turned “on” or “off”. What is most exciting is that the on and off switches appear to be controlled in many cases with simple lifestyle changes!

Some fascinating examples:

  • Stress busting exercises change the function of genes
  • Nutrition, exercise, and stress management change gene expression in patients with prostate cancer

It’s empowering to imagine that through simple lifestyle changes, we have the ability to make such profound changes-even reaching into our genes!

References:

Mediterranean diet and telomeres: http://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g6674.long

Stress busting exercises and genes: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18596974

Lifestyle and genes in prostate cancer: http://www.pnas.org/content/101/49/17312.full.pdf

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