Shifting to a healthier diet can increase your lifespan by up to a decade

New research shows how a healthier, more balanced diet, including more legumes, whole grains and nuts, while reducing consumption of red and processed meats, can extend life.

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“You are what you eat” is an old saying, but a new study from the University of Bergen says that we also live while we eat. The healthier and more diverse our diets, the healthier and longer our life expectancy (LE), he reports.

The paper estimates the effect of such changes on typical Western diets for the two sexes at different ages; The sooner these guidelines are incorporated into our eating habits, the greater the improvements in LE, but older people will also benefit from significant (albeit smaller) gains.

Change your meals, enjoy more meals

“Our modeling methodology used data from [the] more comprehensive meta-analyses, data from the Global Burden of Disease study, life table methodology, and additional analyzes on [the] delay of effects and combination of effects, including overlapping potential effects,” says Lars Fadnes, a professor at the Department of Global Public Health at the University of Bergen who led the research, in an email to ZME Science.

“The methodology provides population estimates under given assumptions and is not intended to be an individualized forecast, with uncertainty including time to achieve full effects, effect of eggs, white meat and oils, individual variation in protective factors and of risk, uncertainties for the future development of medical treatments; Y
Changes in lifestyle”.

Dietary habits are estimated to contribute to 11 million annual deaths worldwide and 255 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs). a DALY, according to The World Health Organization “represents the loss of the equivalent of one year of full health.” In other words, there is plenty of room for good in changing what we eat.

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The team drew on existing databases to develop a computer model to estimate how a variety of dietary changes would affect life expectancy. The model is publicly available online Food4HealthyLife calculator, which you can use to get a better idea of ​​how changing what you eat can benefit your life expectancy. The team envisions that their calculator would also help clinicians and policymakers understand the impact of dietary choices on their patients and the public.

For your typical young adult (20 years old) in the United States, the team reports that switching from the typical to optimal diet (as described by their model) could provide an increase in LE of approximately 10.7 years for women and 13 years for men. There is considerable uncertainty in these results, which means that the increases for women range between 5.9 and 14.1 years, and for men between 6.9 and 17.3, due to the effect of factors that the model it does not take into account, such as pre-existing health conditions, socioeconomic class, etc. Changing diets at age 60 would still produce an increase in LE of 8 years for women and 8.8 years for men.

“The differences in estimates of life expectancy between men and women are mainly due to differences in background mortality (and in particular cardiovascular diseases such as coronary heart disease, where men are generally at higher risk at a younger age). early compared to women)”, prof. Fadnes explained for ZME Science.

The greatest gains in LE would be achieved by eating more legumes, more whole grains, more nuts, less red meat, and less processed meat.

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Until now, research has focused on the impact of diet on LE, but such changes could be beneficial in other ways as well. Many of the suggestions the team makes are also more environmentally sustainable and less costly financially. The team is now hard at work incorporating these factors into their online calculator to help people better understand how dietary changes can improve their lives, on all levels involved.

“We are working to include sustainability aspects in Food4HealthyLife as well. Based on previous studies, optimal diets are likely to have substantial benefits compared to a typical Western diet also in terms of reduced greenhouse gas emissions, land use and other facets of sustainability,” he added for ZME Science. We haven’t systematically investigated the financials yet, but several of the healthy options could also be cheap, like legumes and whole grains.”

The paper “Estimating the Impact of Food Choices on Life Expectancy: A Modeling Study” has been published In the diary PLoS Medicine.

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