What Are the Healthiest Diets for Long Life?

There are many different healthy eating patterns that may help you live longer, a new study suggests — as long as these dietary habits focus on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes, that is.

For the study, researchers at Harvard University examined data on more than 75,000 women and more than 44,000 men who completed a series of dietary questionnaires over 36 years starting when they were in their early fifties. None of the participants had a history of cancer or heart disease.

Scientists scored their diets on the basis of how closely they followed one of four different eating patterns, including a plant-based diet and the Mediterranean diet. The two other diets were the Healthy Eating Index, which aligns with the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and the Harvard-developed Alternative Healthy Eating Index, which takes into account how what we eat relates to chronic disease risk.

People who most closely followed any one of these healthy eating patterns were up to 20 percent less likely to die of all causes during the study and were also much less likely to die of typical causes like cancer, heart disease, and respiratory illnesses, the researchers reported January 9 in JAMA Internal Medicine. Individuals from all racial and ethnic groups in the study had lower odds of premature death when they followed any of these healthy eating patterns.

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