The evidence isn't conclusive, but overall, the Mediterranean diet appears to be good for people's heart health.
The Mediterranean diet appears to be good for people's heart health. flickr/mhaller1979

Eating a Mediterranean diet keeps people genetically younger for longer, says a British Medical Journal study.

According to researchers, a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meats, fish and olive oil stops people's DNA codes from "scrambling" as we age due to strengthening chromosomes, which store our DNA, from the loss of genetic information during cell division.

"All observational studies have the potential to produce misleading estimates, and we should not assume that the association with telomere length is necessarily causal," said Dr David Llewellyn, senior research fellow in clinical epidemiology at the University of Exeter.

"That said, this large well-conducted study is consistent with the hypothesis that dietary interventions may lead to substantial improvements in health."

A Mediterranean diet is considerably low in fat but high in nutritional value and is laden with fruit and vegetables, nuts and olive oil.

The study followed the health of nearly 5,000 nurses over more than a decade and found that the ones who stuck to the Mediterranean diet had longer, healthier telomeres - tiny structures that safeguard the chromosomes.

This is the second time in a month that researchers have hailed the health benefits of sticking to the Mediterranean diet.

An article written by a group of doctors for the Postgraduate Medical Journal (PMJ) said that the low-fat Mediterranean diet can also help reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks, not just improve the waistline.

"A calorie is not just a calorie and it is naive for anyone to think the complex hormonal and neurological appetite systems of the body respond to different substances in the diet in identical fashion," said Professor David Haslam, chairman of the National Obesity Forum.