Crous-Bou, M., et al. 2014. Mediterranean diet and telomere length in Nurses’ Health Study: Population based cohort study. British Medical Journal, 379, G6674; doi: 10.1136/bmj.g6674.

The conventional Mediterranean diet features a high intake of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and unrefined grains. It encourages a low intake of saturated fats with a high intake of olive oil. The diet promotes a somewhat high intake of fish and a low intake of dairy products, meat and poultry. And it is well known for supporting moderate consumption of alcohol, specifically wine with meals.

The Mediterranean diet is linked to several major health benefits (see Figure 1). A new study offers promising results indicating that this diet may also lead to longer life.

The Study Population

This new research evaluated data from 4,676 healthy middle-aged women (average age 59, ranging from 42 to 70) involved in the Nurses’ Health Study, which has tracked the health of more than 120,000 U.S. nurses since 1976. Every other year the participants complete questionnaires on health information, lifestyle activities and diagnoses of diseases. And every 4 years since 1984, researchers have asked participants to complete food-frequency questionnaires on 116–130 food items to track dietary data (Crous-Bou et al. 2014). This study cohort included women who were free of major chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and cancer. Researchers were interested in measuring specific DNA biomarkers known as telomeres, which are related to life expectancy.

Figure 1. Health Benefits of Mediterranean Diet

Technologically advanced research in molecular biology is unraveling exciting results in health, diet and fitness. The understanding of telomeres—and how a Mediterranean diet may influence them and thus lead to a longer, healthier life— is highly valuable to personal trainers intent on encouraging clients to know that lifestyle makes a difference. It is also quite reassuring to read how aerobic exercise improves telomere length. Future research will surely reveal more impactful health information in the complex structures of the human genes.

To read more about this topic, please see “You May Live Longer Eating a Mediterranean Diet” in the online IDEA Library or in the March 2015 print issue of IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7.


Sofi, F., et al. 2010. Accruing evidence on benefits of adherence to the Mediterranean diet on health: An updated systematic review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 92 (5), 1189-96.

Len Kravitz, PhD

Len Kravitz, PhD is a professor and program coordinator of exercise science at the University of New Mexico where he recently received the Presidential Award of Distinction and the Outstanding Teacher of the Year award. In addition to being a 2016 inductee into the National Fitness Hall of Fame, Dr. Kravitz was awarded the Fitness Educator of the Year by the American Council on Exercise. Just recently, ACSM honored him with writing the 'Paper of the Year' for the ACSM Health and Fitness Journal.

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