The Secret to Healthy Aging: Study Identifies Foods That Lower Risk of Chronic Illnesses in Women

by [email protected]

What women eat in midlife can influence their future health, a recent study suggests. Researchers have now found that women who include more plant-based protein in their diets tend to develop fewer chronic diseases as they grow older.

The team from the Jean Mayer USDA Human Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University examined more than 48,000 participants to evaluate the long-term impact of dietary protein intake on healthy aging in women.

The research team noticed that women who included more protein from sources such as fruits, vegetables, bread, beans, legumes and pasta had reduced risk of heart disease, and diabetes in comparison with those who did not consume a lot of these foods.

Participants who took in more plant-based proteins also had reduced cognitive and decline. The study results were published in the American Journal of Nutrition.

“Consuming protein in midlife was linked to promoting good health in older adulthood. We also found that the source of protein matters. Getting the majority of your protein from plant sources at midlife, plus a small amount of animal protein seems to be conducive to good health and good survival to older ages,” said Andres Ardisson Korat, lead author of the study, in a news release.

The participants were part of the Harvard-based Nurses' Health Study, which followed female professionals between the ages of 38 and 59 from 1984 to 2016. All participants were in good physical and mental health at the start of the study.

The researchers examined thousands of surveys collected from the participants every four years during the follow-up period. The survey looked at the frequency at which people ate certain foods, particularly those with dietary protein, to understand its effects on healthy aging.

They then estimated the amount of protein intake by multiplying the frequency of each food by the protein content it had and added up all the protein from all the foods using the Harvard University Food Composition Database.

The team then looked at the diets of women who stayed healthy without 11 chronic diseases or significant decline in physical or mental well-being and compared them with those of women who had health issues.

“Women who ate more plant-based protein, which in 1984 was defined as protein obtained from bread, vegetables, fruits, pizza, cereal, baked items, mashed potatoes, nuts, beans, peanut butter and pasta, were 46% more likely to be healthy into their later years. Those who consumed more animal protein such as beef, chicken, milk, fish/seafood and cheese, however, were 6% less likely to stay healthy as they age,” the researchers wrote.

The researchers observed that consuming more plant-based protein was connected to lower levels of LDL cholesterol, blood pressure and insulin sensitivity. On the other hand, a higher intake of animal protein was associated with elevated levels of these factors.

Furthermore, exclusively consuming protein from dairy sources like milk, cheese, pizza, yogurt and ice cream did not show a significant link with better health in older adulthood.

“Those who consumed greater amounts of animal protein tended to have more chronic disease and didn't manage to obtain the improved physical function that we normally associate with eating protein,” said Ardisson Korat.

Based on their findings, the researchers recommend that women design their diet to ensure that a majority of the protein they take in is from fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. However, they also think women should include some fish and animal protein in their diet to gain the benefits of iron and vitamin .

“Dietary protein intake, especially plant protein, in midlife, plays an important role in the promotion of healthy aging and in maintaining positive health status at older ages,” Ardisson Korat said.

You may also like