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A healthy diet can add 10 years to your life

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Stop eating red meat and processed food and instead eat more vegetables, fruit and fish and you can add around eight years to your life if you make the change when you’re 60.  Even if you change your diet when you’re 80, you’ll still add more than three years to your life expectancy.

A Western diet of processed foods and drinks is responsible for 11 million deaths every year around the world—more than double Covid’s deadly toll—and most could be avoided by switching to a healthier diet, say researchers from the University of Bergen in Norway.

Eating more legumes—pulses such as lentils, beans and peas—has the biggest impact on longevity, and eating 200g, equivalent to one large cup, alone adds 1.6 years to life expectancy, assuming you were eating none at all before.

Eating 200g of fish a day adds 0.4 years to your life span, while eliminating red and processed meats adds 1.2 years to your life.

The five-a-day guidance on fruits and vegetables is also way too low for improving longevity, and the ‘optimum diet’ for a long life would double that amount to 10 portions a day, the researchers discovered.

The pivotal age for a dietary change is 60, and a man who switches to the optimal diet can expect to live to 90—nine years more than the average life expectancy of 81—and a woman could live until she’s 93, an increase of eight years.  But people who make the change when they’re 80 can still live an extra three years or more.

Surprisingly, making the change much earlier doesn’t have a much bigger impact.  A 20-year-old who switches to an optimal diet can expect to live an extra 10 years, which is just two to three years more than someone making the change at 60.

The researchers looked at data sets and diets from the US, Europe and China.  Their findings have been incorporated into a calculator, Food4HealthyLife, where people can see the impact of dietary changes on their longevity.

(Source: PLOS Medicine, 2022; doi: org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1003889)

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Article Topics: nutrition
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