There’s a lot of diet advice out there, but the science linking food and health isn’t always clear cut. A new study on the subject is one of the most comprehensive to date and has identified four dietary patterns associated with lower mortality risk.
Analyzing the eating patterns of 119,315 people over the age of 36, the researchers compared these patterns to four sets of recognized healthy diet regimens: the Healthy Eating Index, the Alternative Mediterranean Diet, the Healthy Plant-Based Diet Index, and the alternative healthy eating index.
The study showed that strictly adhering to at least one of these patterns reduced the risk of premature death from any cause and cardiovascular disease, cancer and respiratory disease. While diets differ, they all include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes.
This matches the official dietary guidelines for Americans (GDI), the researchers note: guidelines that recommend multiple healthy eating patterns to suit individual preferences, cultures and health needs, and offer a variety of tips on how to eat in a way that doesn’t harm our bodies.
“The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are intended to provide science-based dietary advice that promotes good health and reduces major chronic diseases,” says Frank Hu, a nutritional epidemiologist at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Massachusetts.
“Therefore, it is critical to examine the associations between ADI-recommended dietary patterns and long-term health outcomes, particularly mortality.”
The Healthy Eating Index, for example, provides recommended amounts for all major food groups, including fruits, vegetables and dairy. The Alternative Mediterranean Diet Score is comprehensive and includes data on fruits, fish, nuts, alcohol, and more.
Then there’s the Healthy Plant-based Diet Index, which ranks healthy plant-based foods (such as vegetables and whole grains) versus unhealthy plant-based foods (such as refined grains and foods high in sugar) and animal-based foods. .
Finally, the Alternate Healthy Eating Index includes everything from vegetables to sugary drinks, primarily how this relates to chronic disease.
According to the results of this latest study, it’s a great idea to start following at least one of these approaches.
“It is important to assess adherence to dietary patterns and ADI-recommended health outcomes, including mortality, so that timely updates can be made,” says Hu.
While the research can’t say definitively that these specific eating habits are causing longer life — and it’s based on self-reported data rather than anything scientifically recorded — the association is clear enough to demonstrate health benefits. of eating well.
As noted by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 6 out of 10 adults in the United States live with at least one chronic disease related to their diet. Meanwhile, adherence to these guidelines hasn’t improved much in recent years.
There is no shortage of studies on nutrition and health, even if the recommendations may vary according to age and how we are made. Legumes, whole grains and vegetables are often recommended, while fish, eggs and dairy products are typically best eaten in moderation, according to experts.
What is clear is how important it is to commit to a healthy diet throughout life if we want these lives to last as long as possible. This is part of the work of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which should be updated in the near future.
“Our findings will be invaluable to the 2025-2030 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which is being formed to evaluate the current evidence related to different dietary patterns and health outcomes,” says Hu.
The research was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.