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Healthy Food Improves and Extends Lives of Older Adults

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Healthy food

Eating healthy foods reduces the chances of death and improves quality of life for older adults, suggest researchers.

Among adults age 70 to 79 studied by scientists, those separated into a “Healthy Food” group had a significantly lower chance of dying, compared to other dietary patterns.

The researchers note chronic diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease has surpassed infection as a leading cause of death. The scientists wanted to measure the impact of diet for curbing the chances of dying and quality of life in older adults based on food intake. According to background information from the study, estimates show 973 million adults will be aged 65 or older worldwide by 2030.

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The study is unique say the researchers because it looked at quality of life and biochemical measurements of nutritional status among 2500 older adults. The goal of the study was to measure survival over a 10-year period in several groups based on what the participants eat. A second goal was to gauge quality of life related to dietary patterns.

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The scientists separated the study participants into 6 groups based mainly on what they ate: ”Healthy Foods", "High-fat dairy products", "Meat, fried foods, and alcohol", "Breakfast cereal", "Refined grains", "Sweets and desserts". For each group there were 374 participants, 332, 693, 386, 458 and 339 respectively.

The findings showed the older adults who consumed high fat dairy -2% or whole milk, yogurt and cheeses - had a 40% higher risk of dying than those who ate healthy foods that include whole grains, fish, poultry, fruits and vegetables and fewer fried foods, added fat, meats, sweets, desserts and high calorie drinks.

Eating sweets and desserts was found to increase the overall chances of dying 37%. Among study participants who reported higher intake of breakfast cereal, refined grains and healthy food, no difference was found in mortality rates.

The findings, published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, "...suggest that older adults who follow a dietary pattern consistent with current guidelines to consume relatively high amounts of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry and fish, may have a lower risk of mortality.

Because a substantial percentage of older adults in this study followed the 'Healthy foods' dietary pattern, adherence to such a diet appears a feasible and realistic recommendation for potentially improved survival and quality of life in the growing older adult population", explains lead author Amy L. Anderson, Ph.D., Department of Nutrition and Food Science, University of Maryland.

Even after adjusting for other factors that included gender, age, race, clinical site, education, physical activity, smoking, and total calorie intake, the researchers found eating healthy foods was linked to a longer and higher quality life for older adults.

Source: Elsevier
Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 111, Issue 1



If you could only eat one dish for the rest of your life, what would it be?
That's a tough one. I would say brown rice because it's versatile and should sustain you.