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Mediterranean diet and telomere length in Nurses’ Health Study: population based cohort study

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 02 December 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g6674

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Marta Crous-Bou and colleagues demonstrated that greater adherence to the Mediterranean Diet (MD) is associated with longer telomeres among healthy middle aged women from the US. These results further support the benefits of MD pattern in promoting health-span and longevity. However, whether telomere length may be considered a biomarker of aging and age related diseases is still under debate (1); shorter telomeres have been found in many age-related diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disorders and neurodegenerative diseases, while its role in predicting lifespan is still unclear (1,2). It has been suggested that the accumulation of short and dysfunctional telomeres rather than average telomere length causes of age related diseases, and that rescue of short telomeres by telomerase is able to restore cell viability (3). Moreover, using data from a population-based study of older subjects from South Italy, we previously found evidence of an association between higher adherence to MD and longer telomere length independent of multiple confounding variables (including “age”, gender and smoking habit) (4). Greater adherence to MD significantly correlated to higher telomerase activity in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), and this latter resulted a significant predictor of health status independent of the average telomere length. Telomere stability, rather than telomere length, may be considered the major determinant of healthspan. Thus the evaluation of telomere attrition rate as well as the circulating telomerase activity levels may be considered more powerful biomarkers of aging and/or healthspan among subjects adhering to this dietary pattern.

1. Sanders J.L., Newman A.B., 2013. Telomere Length in Epidemiology: A Biomarker of Aging, Age-Related Disease, Both, or Neither? Epidemiol Rev (Epub ahead of print).
2. Mather K.A., Jorm A.F., Parslow R.A., Christensen H., 2011. Is telomere length a biomarker of aging? A review. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 66(2), 202-213.
3. Hemann M.T., Strong M.A., Hao L.Y. and Greider C.W., 2001 The shortest telomere, not average telomere length, is critical for cell viability and chromosome stability. Cell. 107:67‐77.
4. Boccardi V., Esposito A., Rizzo M.R., Marfella R., Barbieri M., Paolisso G., 2013. Mediterranean diet, telomere maintenance and health status among elderly. PLoS One 30, 8(4):e62781.

Competing interests: No competing interests

06 December 2014
Virginia Boccardi
Medical Doctor
Giuseppe Paolisso
Second University of Naples
P.zza Miraglia, 2 -80138- Naples