- Diet changes can positively impact the lifespan of adults in middle age and beyond.
- Researchers found that those who improved their diets with more fruit, vegetables, and whole grains had a lower risk of premature death.
- Diet quality enhancements from minor adjustments, such as substituting red meat with legumes or nuts, led to an 8-17% reduction in risk of early death.
- Healthy eating should ideally be a lifelong commitment, but it’s never too late to start. Neither specific food nor nutrients are magical solutions, the overall diet plays the primary factor in health and longevity.
- Incorporating more plant-based foods is recommended by experts as a guide for healthier diet habits.
Recent research suggests that switching to a healthier diet can benefit adults in their middle age and beyond, potentially resulting in extended lifespan.
This finding, which aligns with what health experts have been stating for years, is groundbreaking in its revelation that even late-life diet modifications can be linked to increased longevity.
“The primary insight from this study is that it’s never too late to enhance your diet quality. The majority of our study participants were 60 years or older,” explains lead researcher Mercedes Sotos-Prieto, an established scientist.
The conclusions reached were based on a comprehensive review of nearly 74,000 U.S. health professionals involved in two lengthy studies commencing in the 1970s and 1980s.
How Diet Changes Impact Longevity?
During the timeline of 1998 to 2010, nearly 10,000 participants of the said study passed away. The researchers probed into how changes in participants’ diets over the preceding 12 years correlated with the risk of premature death.
It was found that individuals who had bettered their diets – integrating more fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, had a lower risk of premature death in comparison to those with unaltered diets.
In contrast, those who let their dietary habits radiate inferior standards faced a higher risk of mortality during the course of the study.
What is the Role of Diet Improvement?
The researchers utilized three scoring systems to measure diet quality: the Alternate Healthy Eating Index; the Alternate Mediterranean Diet score; and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet score. Despite differences, all assign higher scores to food categories like vegetables, fruit, whole grains, fish, low-fat dairy, and “healthy” fat sources such as olive oil and nuts.
On average, it was observed that a minor adjustment in diet quality led to an 8% to 17% reduction in the risk of early death from any cause. Similar rates of risk reduction were seen in mortality due to specific causes like heart disease or stroke.
According to Sotos-Prieto, even minor changes like substituting a serving of red meat with legumes or nuts can make a significant difference.
“Our study reinforces the perception that modest enhancements in diet quality over time could significantly affect mortality risk,” asserts Sotos-Prieto.
A Lifelong Journey Toward Healthy Eating
Health and nutrition expert Alice Lichtenstein supports the study’s conclusions, indicating that healthy eating should ideally be a lifelong commitment. However, she also affirms that individuals are never “too old” to make positive diet changes.
“The key is to engage in changes that are sustainable for the rest of your life,” she emphasizes. Lichtenstein also adds that no specific foods or nutrients serve as the magic solution, but rather the overall diet plays the primary factor in maintaining good health.
Registered dietitian Connie Diekman suggests that a general guide for most would be to incorporate more plant-based foods in their meals.
It’s encouraging to note that it’s becoming easier to maintain a healthy diet, as American consumers generally have greater access to a range of whole grains, and fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables.
For advice on pursuing a healthier diet, consider visiting the American Heart Association.