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Eating a Healthy Diet Prolongs Life in Seniors

We have all heard the phrase “you are what you eat,” and the more research that comes out on eating a nutritious diet, the more it seems that saying is really true! According to a study published in the January 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, those who eat healthy foods live longer than those who don’t.

The major indication of this is that the leading causes of death in Americans has shifted from infectious diseases to chronic diseases, like cardiovascular disease and cancer — illnesses that may be affected by diet. Researchers studied the eating patterns and mortality of more than 2,500 adults between the ages of 70 and 79 over a 10-year period. What did they find? That diets favoring certain foods were associated with longer lives.

Researchers grouped the study participants into six different clusters according to what they ate a lot of: healthy foods; high-fat dairy products; meat, fried foods, and alcohol; breakfast cereal; refined grains; sweets and desserts. The “healthy foods” group ate low-fat dairy products, fruit, whole grains, poultry, fish and vegetables, and had a lower consumption of meat, fried foods, sweets, high-calorie drinks and added fat.

What did they find? After controlling for gender, age, race, education, physical activity, smoking and total calorie intake, the “high-fat dairy products” group had a whopping 40 percent higher risk of death than the “healthy foods” group. The “sweets and desserts” group had a 37 percent higher risk.

The bottom line? When older adults consume relatively high amounts of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry and fish, they may have a lower risk of mortality, researchers say. Also, the authors found that because a substantial percentage of older adults in the study fell into the “healthy foods” group, adherence to a nutritious diet appears to be a feasible and realistic recommendation, they say.

Although the study was done on seniors, this study is a good reminder that what we eat matters — no matter our age!

December 27th, 2010

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