Healthy diet changes could add 10 years to life expectancy, study finds

Dietary changes could add up to a decade to life expectancy, a new study finds. Photo by cattalin/Pixabay
Dietary changes could add up to a decade to life expectancy, a new study finds. Photo by cattalin/Pixabay

Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Young adults in the United States can add more than a decade to their life expectancy by changing from a typical Western diet to one that includes more legumes, whole grains and nuts, and less red and processed meat, an analysis published Tuesday by PLOS Medicine found.

For older people, the anticipated gains to life expectancy from such dietary changes would be smaller, but still substantial, the researchers said.


Young women who changed to an "optimal" diet high in fruit and vegetables and low in red and processed meats beginning at age 20 -- and stuck to it -- would add nearly 11 years to their life expectancies, the data showed.

Men could add as much as 13 years with the same dietary changes, according to the researchers.

Eating more green vegetables alone would add two to three years to life expectancy, while consuming less red meat would boost it by nearly two years, they said.

Adding more nuts and whole grains alone would add about two years to life expectancy, the researchers said.

Making these dietary changes at age 60 years could still increase life expectancy by eight years for women and nine years for men, while doing so at age 80 years boost it by between three and four years, respectively they said.


"Research until now have shown health benefits associated with separate food group or specific diet patterns," co-author Lars Fadnes said in a press release.

However, there is "limited information on the health impact of other diet changes," said Fadness, a professor of global health at the University of Bergen in Norway.

Some 11 million deaths globally each year are linked with an unhealthy diet, according to the World Health Association.

This study's findings are based on an analysis of data from the Global Burden of Diseases, a WHO-led project designed to assess the impact of poor health worldwide.

The researchers used the data to build a model that estimates the effect on life expectancy of a range of dietary changes, they said.

The model is available as a publicly available online tool called the Food4HealthyLife calculator, according to the researchers.

"Understanding the relative health potential of different food groups could enable people to make feasible and significant health gains," Fadness and his colleagues said.

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