Healthy eating patterns linked to reduced risk of premature death

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A Harvard University study has found that adhering to healthy eating patterns is associated with a reduced risk of premature death.

Participants who followed one of four recommended healthy eating patterns, which are aligned with current Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs), were less likely to die from any cause, including heart disease, cancer, or respiratory disease.

The Research

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

However, there have been few studies examining whether adherence to these guidelines indeed reduces the risk of death.

The Harvard research team used health data collected over a 36-year period from 75,230 women 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 start of the study and completed dietary questionnaires every four years.

The researchers scored the information from these questionnaires based on adherence to four dietary patterns: the Healthy Eating Index 2015, Alternate Mediterranean Diet, Healthful Plant-based Diet Index, and Alternate Healthy Eating Index.

These diets share common components such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes, although they differ in other ways.

Higher scores on at least one of the indexes indicated a lower risk of premature death from any cause, as well as heart disease, cancer, and respiratory disease.

Higher scores on the Alternate Mediterranean Diet and the Alternate Healthy Eating Index were associated with a lower risk of death from neurodegenerative disease.

These findings were consistent among non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic Black, and Hispanic participants.

Looking Forward

The study underscores the importance of following the DGAs, which are updated every five years by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA).

The guidelines recommend multiple healthy eating patterns that can be tailored to individual food traditions and preferences.

The research team emphasized the need for ongoing evaluation of adherence to DGAs-recommended eating patterns and associated health outcomes, including mortality, to ensure that the guidelines remain up-to-date and effective.

For those interested in nutrition, consider reading more about how the Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health and the best time to take vitamins to prevent heart disease.

Other recent studies have suggested that olive oil may help increase lifespan, and vitamin D could help lower the risk of autoimmune diseases.

This study was conducted by Frank Hu and his team, and the findings were published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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