Sustained shift toward a healthier diet can increase lifespan by up to 10 years

A recent study published in Nature Food used prospective population-based cohort data to show the effects on life expectancy of switching from an unhealthy diet to a longevity-associated dietary pattern over the long term.

Using data from the UK Biobank database on 467,354 participants, the researchers estimated the life expectancy gains associated with a sustained change from median or unhealthy dietary patterns to a longevity-associated dietary pattern.

The findings showed that sustained dietary change from unhealthy to longevity-associated dietary patterns was associated with gains in life expectancy of 10.8 and 10.4 years in men and women, respectively. The longevity-associated dietary pattern had a high intake of dairy, vegetables, nuts and legumes; moderate intakes of whole grains, fruit, fish and white meat; a relatively low intake of eggs, red meat and sugar-sweetened beverages; and a low intake of refined grains and processed meat.

The biggest gains in life expectancy were associated with increased intake of whole grains and nuts, and with reduced intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and processed meats. The researchers concluded that these food groups should be specific targets for clinicians in the guidance of patients and for policymakers in the development of public health policy.

Fadnes, L. T., Celis-Morales, C., Økland, J. M., Parra-Soto, S., Livingstone, K. M., Ho, F. K., Pell, J. P., Balakrishna, R., Javadi Arjmand, E., Johansson, K. A., Haaland, Ø. A., & Mathers, J. C. (2023). Life expectancy can increase by up to 10 years following sustained shifts towards healthier diets in the United Kingdom. Nature Food, 4(11), 961–965.

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