How much does the food we eat impact our chances of living longer? That’s the question posed by a new study by Harvard University researchers, recently published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal.
Titled ‘Healthy Eating Patterns and Risk of Total and Cause-Specific Mortality’, the study has revealed the top four diets linked to longevity, as well as low rates of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and respiratory disease.
In order to figure out the eating habits associated with better health outcomes, the researchers analysed data from more than 75,000 women and 44,000 men over 36 years, identifying certain healthy eating patterns that were associated with a lower risk of death.
4 diets for a longer life
The Mediterranean diet
Often touted as the holy grail of healthy diets, the Mediterranean diet is one of the four healthy eating patterns identified in the Harvard study. The diet – which focuses on consuming fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, olive oil, fish and low consumption of red and processed meats – was associated with a lower risk of death from neurodegenerative disease.
A diet that has risen in popularity in recent decades due to its sustainability and health benefits, a plant-based diet cuts out animal products and focuses on fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
Harvard’s Alternative Healthy Eating Index
A diet developed by Harvard researchers for the longevity study, the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI) shares a lot of similarities to the Mediterranean diet by promoting nuts and whole grains, fruit and vegetables, fish and healthy fats. In the AHEI, certain foods and nutrients are assigned ratings when it comes to their associated risk of chronic disease.
Some of the foods the AHEI recommends avoiding are potatoes, fruit juice and saturated fats such as butter.
Healthy Eating Index 2015
A more traditional healthy eating pattern, the Healthy Eating Index 2015 is developed by the US Department of Health and Human Services. It was first developed in 1995 and last updated in 2015, now focusing on eating plant-based foods alongside lean animal products, and avoiding processed meats, trans fats, sugar and alcohol.