Certain dietary changes can extend one’s life expectancy, a new study confirms.
A diet rich in legumes and whole grains can add up to 1 decade to a person’s life if they start eating for longevity early enough.
The study comes with a free, interactive online calculator people can use to explore the life expectancy benefits achievable by eating specific foods.
It may come as no surprise that the types of food people eat can have a profound impact on their health.
Having a general sense of what to eat for health is one thing, but the wealth of available information can be overwhelming.
A new study which comes with a free, interactive online calculator Food4HealthyLife — makes it easy to estimate the beneficial effect of any food group on a person’s longevity. The research used comprehensive global data from the Global Burden of Diseases study.
Taking into account a person’s age and the proportion of different food groups they consume, the calculator models the life expectancy benefit that they may achieve.
The factors that influence one’s life expectancy extend beyond their diet, and the calculator predicts only the potential effect of dietary changes in isolation.
According to lead author, Prof. Lars Thore Fadnes from the University of Bergen in Norway:
“Research until now has shown health benefits associated with separate food group or specific diet patterns but given limited information on the health impact of other diet changes. Our modeling methodology has bridged this gap.”
The scientists conclude that a sustained switch from a typical Western diet to the optimal diet from age 20 years could increase life expectancy by around 10.7 years for women and 13 years for men.
The younger a person starts eating for longevity, the greater the predicted increase in life expectancy. However, older adults can still extend their lives — even if to a lesser degree — by changing their eating habits.
Kirkpatrick suggested several steps in transitioning to a healthier diet.
First, she advised focusing on unprocessed food that comes from nature 85% of the time. “Next,” she said, “I would suggest starting to transition animal proteins for plants, such as having a chickpea burger over a cheeseburger. You can even go with more fatty wild fish, such as salmon, as well.”
Finally, Kirkpatrick recommended switching to unsaturated oils, such as extra-virgin olive oil.
Foods for longevity
“Eating more legumes, whole grains, and nuts and eating less red meat and processed meats were estimated to be the most effective ways to increase life expectancy for individuals with a typical diet,” said Prof. Fadnes.
Dr. Bonaccio noted, “These are mainly confirmatory results and align with the vast majority of food-based dietary guidelines and education programs worldwide.”
One aspect of the study’s recommendations that may surprise some is a promotion of legumes and whole grains over fruit and vegetables for extending longevity. Prof. Fadnes explained to MNT:
Previous research also makes it clear that the benefit of healthy eating habits is greater if a person leads a physically active life.
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