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How many years can a better diet add to your life?
Making healthy lifestyle choices is the key to living longer. Exercising, not smoking, and drinking alcohol in moderation will all contribute to better health to be able to enjoy those years.
Your diet, however, is the real key to longevity.
Studies have shown that your diet can help change the genetic pathways that regulate metabolism and aging.
But just how many years could you add to your life by eating differently?
The results of a new study answer that question and show that making even small changes to the way you eat will add years to your life.
The “optimal diet” for longevity
Norwegian researchers brought together data from many studies that looked at diet and longevity. They looked at this information together with data from the Global Burden of Disease study, a comprehensive analysis of 286 causes of death, 369 diseases and injuries, and 87 risk factors in 204 countries and territories around the world.
Looking at data sets side by side, the researchers were able to estimate how life expectancy varied with changes in consumption of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, refined grains, nuts, legumes, fish, eggs, dairy, red meat, processed meat and sugary drinks.
They put together an optimal diet for longevity (one with more legumes, whole grains and nuts and less red and processed meat) and compared it with the typical Western diet — high in processed foods, red meat, high-fat dairy products, high-sugar foods, pre-packed foods and low fruit and vegetable intake.
It’s pretty obvious which diet will add years to your life, but just how much?
They concluded that eating a healthier diet could add six to seven years to the lifespan of middle-aged adults. In young adults, lifespan could increase by as much as ten years!
Why does the optimal diet add years to your life?
It may seem obvious that eating more whole foods and less sugar, red meat and processed foods would make you healthier.
But the Norwegian researchers pinpointed two clear reasons that their optimal diet for longevity seems to add years to a lifespan.
Antioxidants. The optimal diet for longevity includes many foods that are high in antioxidants. Research suggests that antioxidants slow or even prevent cell damage which is one cause of aging.
Anti-inflammatory foods. The optimal longevity diet centers around foods with anti-inflammatory properties, like fatty fish, berries, and cruciferous vegetables. Controlling chronic inflammation lets you slow down the iAge clock, which measures your biological age. (Your biological age can be higher or lower than your chronological age, depending upon your health).
How to head toward an optimal diet for longevity
The study authors say that in order to see the benefit of a longer lifespan, these changes in diet need to happen within a ten-year period. So if you’re, say, forty, and you don’t really implement these shifts in diet until you’re 65, all bets may be off.
They are also aware of how difficult it can be to overhaul your diet, so they also developed a “feasibility approach diet,” that enables you to make partial changes. For example, you could cut sugar, red and processed meat consumption in half rather than eliminating them entirely.
One caveat with either of these diets: the earlier you start making changes, the more years you’ll gain on the other end.
But it’s never too late to start modifying your diet to add years to your life.
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Changing your diet could add ten years to your life – new research — The Conversation
Estimating impact of food choices on life expectancy: A modeling study — PLOS Medicine
Diet and longevity: The effects of traditional eating habits on human lifespan extension — IOS Press Content Library