Healthy eating patterns linked to lower risk of premature death

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A recent study conducted by scientists at Harvard University discovered that a variety of healthy eating patterns are associated with a reduced risk of premature death.

The research found that participants who scored highly on adherence to at least one of four healthy eating patterns were less likely to die from any cause, heart disease, cancer, or respiratory disease during the study period.

These findings align with the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs), which recommend multiple healthy eating patterns.

Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs)

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans aim to provide science-based dietary advice to promote good health and reduce the risk of major chronic diseases.

However, few studies have examined the long-term risk of death in relation to greater adherence to the dietary patterns recommended by the DGAs.

The Study

In the study, the researchers used health data collected over 36 years from 75,230 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study and 44,085 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.

All participants were free of heart disease or cancer at the beginning of the study and completed dietary questionnaires every four years.

Their information was scored based on each of the four dietary pattern indexes (Healthy Eating Index 2015, Alternate Mediterranean Diet, Healthful Plant-based Diet Index, and Alternate Healthy Eating Index).

All four patterns emphasize key components such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes, although other components differ across different eating patterns.


The researchers found that higher scores on at least one of the indexes were associated with a lower risk of premature death from all causes, and from heart disease, cancer, and respiratory disease.

Higher scores on the Alternate Mediterranean Diet and the Alternate Healthy Eating Index were linked to a lower risk of death from neurodegenerative disease. The results were consistent across non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic Black, and Hispanic participants.

Looking Forward

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are updated every five years by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA), which recommend multiple healthy eating patterns that can be adapted to individual food traditions and preferences.

The researchers emphasize the importance of evaluating adherence to the DGA-recommended eating patterns and health outcomes, including mortality, to allow for timely updates.

For more on nutrition, please refer to recent studies indicating that the Mediterranean diet could help protect your brain health, the best time to take vitamins to prevent heart disease, the potential longevity benefits of olive oil, and how vitamin D could help lower the risk of autoimmune diseases.

This groundbreaking study, conducted by Frank Hu and colleagues, was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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