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Study shows a healthier diet can add years to your life — a decade in your 20s, eight or nine years in 60s

Young adults in the U.S. can add more than a decade to their life expectancy by switching from a typical Western diet to a one that includes more legumes, whole grains, and nuts and less red and processed meat. Older people would also benefit from these changes, though not as much as younger individuals.

Researchers at the University of Bergen in Norway used data from the Global Burden of Diseases study to build a model that can instantly estimate how various dietary changes affect life expectancy. The study is published in the journal PLOS Medicine, and the model is a publicly available tool called the Food4HealthyLife Calculator.

Graph by University of Bergen researchers, adapted by Kentucky Health News. (Click for larger graphic)

For young adults in the U.S., the model estimates that a sustained change from a typical Western diet to the optimal diet beginning at age 20 would increase life expectancy by more than a decade for women and men. Changing at age 60 years could still increase life expectancy by eight years for women and almost nine years for men, and even 80-year-olds could gain over three years.

The study estimated gains in life expectancy from eating more or less of various types of foods, and found that the largest gains came from eating more legumes, whole grains and nuts, and less red and processed meat.

“Research until now has shown health benefits associated with separate food groups or specific diet patterns but given limited information on the health impact of other diet changes,” said Lars Fadnes, lead author of the study. “Our modeling methodology has bridged this gap.”

Kentucky Health News

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