Harvard study links midlife diet to healthy ageing

A Harvard University study presented at the American Nutrition Society’s annual conference (NUTRITION 2024) in Chicago has found a strong link between diet in midlife and healthy ageing.

The research, based on data from over 106,000 individuals followed for 30 years, examined the association between dietary patterns and healthy ageing outcomes at age 70. Participants, all free of chronic diseases at the study’s outset, reported their diets every four years via questionnaires.

Healthy ageing was defined as encompassing not just the absence of disease but also the ability to maintain independence and a good quality of life, including physical health, cognitive function, and mental well-being.

The study found that those who adhered to a healthy diet from age 40 onwards were 43% to 84% more likely to achieve healthy ageing at 70 compared to those with less healthy diets.

A key finding was the positive correlation between healthy ageing and diets aligned with the planetary diet, which emphasises fruits, vegetables, whole grains, plant-based proteins, and healthy fats. Compared to those with less healthy diets, individuals following the planetary diet had a 68% greater likelihood of healthy ageing. Similarly, those adhering to a Mediterranean diet saw a 67% increased chance.

Conversely, the study linked higher consumption of trans fats, sodium, red meat, and processed meats with a lower likelihood of healthy ageing.

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