The leading causes of death in America are cardiovascular disease and cancer, which are illnesses that can be affected by diet.
According to a study that will appear in the January 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, eating healthy foods can help prolong an individual's life. Researchers from the University of Maryland analyzed the dietary habits of more than 2,500 adults between the ages of 70 and 79 over a 10-year period. They found that a diet enriched with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry and fish may lower the risk of mortality among the elderly.
Researchers broke the sample group's eating patterns into six different groups based on their predominant food choices. Those groups were "healthy foods," "high-fat dairy products," "meat, fried foods and alcohol," "breakfast cereal," "refined grains" and "sweets and desserts."
The study found that individuals who fell into the high-fat dairy products cluster had a 40 percent higher risk of mortality than the healthy food group. The people who opted for sweets and desserts had a 37 percent higher risk than those who had a healthy diet. There was no significant differences between healthy foods, breakfast cereal and refined grains.
"Because a substantial percentage of older adults in this study followed the "healthy foods" dietary pattern, adherence to such a diet appears a feasible and realistic recommendation for potentially improved survival and quality of life in the growing older adult population," said Amy Anderson, the lead author of the study.