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Poor diet 'can speed up ageing'

Eating a poor diet and being on a low income can cause people to age more quickly, research has suggested.

Researchers measured the ageing process by looking at telomeres - which are found at the end of chromosomes and shorten as people get older.

They examined 382 DNA samples from adults in Glasgow aged 35-65.

Telomeres were found to shorten by an average of 7.7% over a 10-year period in people whose household income was below £25,000.

This was compared with just 0.6% for those on higher incomes.

Dr Paul Shiels from Glasgow University's Institute of Cancer Sciences said telomeres protect chromosomes and stop them fraying - acting "like the plastic caps on the end of your shoelaces".

The ability of telomeres to protect the chromosomes decreases as they shorten with age.

Dr Shiels added: "The rate at which the shortening occurs can be increased in disease and can be increased by other stresses. We show that accelerated ageing is associated with deprivation and poor diet in Glasgow.

"This is most prevalent in the over-55s and those with household incomes under £25,000.

"This effect is exacerbated by diet: simply not eating your five portions of fruit and veg a day."

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Glasgow University Institute of Cancer Sciences