Can Improving Your Diet Extend Your Life?

Can Improving Your Diet Extend Your Life?

  A large new study shows that adopting healthier eating habits—even after middle age—can help you live longer. The findings, reported recently in the New England Journal of Medicine, are the first to indicate that changing your diet for the better later in life might increase life expectancy.   Approximately 74,000 U.S. health professionals, most of whom were 60 years of age or older, were part of two long-running studies beginning in the 1970s and 1980s. Almost 10,000 of the study participants died between 1998 and 2010. Researchers analyzed how people's risk of early death related to any diet changes they'd made in the previous 12 years (1986 to 1998). Results indicated that people who had added more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to their diets had a lower risk of premature death than those who made no changes. In contrast, people whose eating habits got worse were at a 6-12% higher risk of dying during the study period, compared to balanced eaters.   Overall, the study found a 20-percentile improvement in diet quality (swapping out one daily serving of red meat for one serving of legumes or nuts, for example) was associated with an 8-17% decrease in the risk of early death from any cause. These results show that even small positive diet changes can influence mortality.   Of course, the ideal scenario would be to embrace healthy eating habits throughout an entire lifetime. But this study confirms that it’s never too late and you’re never too old to make changes that will improve your quality—and potentially, quantity—of life.   Source: New England Journal of Medicine

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