Having a diet that is rich in fruit, vegetable, and whole grain and low in added sugar, sodium, and processed meat could help promote healthy cellular ageing in women, a study has showed.
Researchers from the University of Michigan (UM) used telomere length to measure cellular ageing – the strongest predictor of telomere length, which shorten in length during each cell cycle.
The findings showed that women who followed a diet with plenty of fruit, vegetable, whole grain and plant-based protein and limited sugar, sodium and red and processed meat, had significantly with longer telomere length. In men, the findings were in the same direction, but not statistically significant.
"We have seen some gender differences in previous nutrition and telomere studies. Men tended to have lower diet quality scores than women. Men also had higher intakes of sugary beverages and processed meats, both of which have been associated with shorter telomeres in prior studies," said lead author Cindy Leung, assistant professor at the UM School of Public Health.
"Overall, the findings suggest that following these guidelines is associated with longer telomere length and reduces the risk of major chronic disease," Leung added.
The benefit of these healthy diet patterns is due to the fact that they are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. They create a biochemical environment favourable to telomeres, the researchers noted, in the paper published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
Nevertheless, recent studies have shown that telomeres can also be shortened due to behavioural, environmental and psychological factors. Shorter telomeres have been associated with an increased risk for heart disease, type-2 diabetes and some cancers.
"Emphasis should be placed on improving the overall quality of your diet rather than emphasising individual foods or nutrients," Leung said.
The study examined the diets of a nationally representative sample of nearly 5,000 healthy adults and how well they scored on four evidence-based diet quality indices, including the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet.