Study Reveals Your Diet at 40 Determines Quality of Life at 70

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Your dietary choices undoubtedly influence both your physical and mental well-being. But can they decide your life quality decades down the road? Surprisingly, a new study suggests that the effects of a quality diet extend far into the future: maintaining a healthy diet in midlife could pave the way for a high-quality life at 70.

Individuals on a healthy diet in their 40s are 43-84% likely to experience robust physical and mental functioning at age 70 compared to those who did not prioritize their diet, according to the latest study presented at 2024, the flagship annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition in Chicago.

As per the study findings, individuals who consumed higher amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, unsaturated fats, nuts, legumes, and low-fat dairy showed signs of healthy aging. Conversely, those with higher intakes of trans fat, sodium, total meats, and red and processed meats had reduced chances of healthy aging.

“People who adhered to healthy dietary patterns in midlife, especially those rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, were significantly more likely to achieve healthy aging. This suggests that what you eat in midlife can play a big role in how well you age,” said Anne-Julie Tessier, the researcher who presented the study at the meeting.

While earlier had established a connection between a healthy diet and lower chronic disease risk, the latest study is unique as it involves the impact on healthy aging. The researchers define healthy aging not only as being free from disease, but also as having the ability to live independently and enjoy a high quality of life.

“Traditionally, research and derived dietary guidelines have focused on preventing chronic diseases like heart disease. Our study provides evidence for dietary recommendations to consider not only disease prevention but also promoting overall healthy aging as a long-term goal,” Tessier said.

The study examined 106,000 participants aged 39 or older without chronic diseases at the beginning of the research in 1986. By 2016, nearly half of the participants had passed away, and only 9.2% lived past 70 without chronic illnesses while maintaining good physical, cognitive, and .

The researchers compared the participants' healthy aging based on their adherence to eight healthy dietary patterns established in previous scientific studies. They then found that the Alternative Healthy Eating Index, which closely follows the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, showed the strongest correlation to healthy aging. Participants in the top quintile of this dietary pattern were 84% more likely to achieve healthy aging compared to those in the bottom quintile.

The hyperinsulinemia diet was linked to a 78% higher likelihood of healthy aging, while the planetary health diet and Mediterranean diet showed associations of 68% and 67%, respectively. The DASH diet was associated with a 66% likelihood of healthy aging, the MIND diet with 59%, and the empirical dietary inflammatory pattern with 58%. A slightly less strong association was found for the healthful plant-based diet, which showed a 43% likelihood of healthy aging.

“A finding that stood out was the association between the planetary health diet and healthy aging. This diet is based on the EAT Lancet Commission's report which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, plant proteins and healthy fats from sustainable sources. The fact that it emerged as one of the leading dietary patterns associated with healthy aging is particularly interesting because it supports that we can eat a diet that may benefit both our health and the planet,” Tessier said.

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