Ditching the Western diet could help you live up to 13 years longer

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BERGEN, Norway (StudyFinds.org) — Adopting a healthier diet of nuts, beans and whole grains as a young adult can help you live a decade longer, a new longevity study reveals. A team from the University of Bergen says healthy diet changes actually benefit people of all ages, but the sooner someone moves away from red and processed meat, the better in the long run.

Researcher Lars Fadnes says dietary risk factors contribute to 11 deaths and another 255 million years old life disrupted by a disability each year. In the new study, the researchers used data from the Global Burden of Diseases study to create a model that assessed the life expectancy benefits of consuming certain foods. The team has made this tool – the Food4HealthyLife Calculator – available to the public online.

A longer life can come down to your diet

The results show that if young adults in the United States shift away from the traditional Western diet and start eating healthier options, they will add more than a decade to their lifespans. Specifically, from age 20, young women gained 10.7 years by avoiding the typical Western diet, which is known to contain high amounts of red meat, saturated fats and refined grains. Young men gained an extra 13 years by making this diet change!

“Understanding the relative health potential of different food groups could enable people to achieve achievable and significant health gains,” the study authors say in a press release. “The Food4HealthyLife Calculator could be a useful tool for clinicians, policy makers and laypersons to understand the impact of food choices on health.”

Nuts and legumes provide the biggest boost

The team found that eating more legumes (like beans and peas) added more than two years to life in young adults, while whole grains and nuts also increased life expectancy by similar amounts.

Eating less red meat also contributed to this healthy change, adding 1.6 years to a woman’s lifespan and 1.9 years to a man’s average lifespan. The results were exactly the same when adults gave up processed meat at a young age.

For seniors, the study reveals that it’s never too late to make a positive change. For people over 60, switching from a Western diet to an optimized healthy diet added eight years to a woman’s lifespan and 8.8 years for men. At age 80, men and women have gained an average of 3.4 additional years of life.

“So far, research has shown health benefits associated with distinct food groups or specific diets, but with limited information on the health impact of other diet changes. Our modeling methodology filled this gap,” adds Fadnes.

The results are published in the journal OLP Medicine.

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