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Improving diet over time lowers risk of premature death

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Even modest changes can reduce total and cardiovascular mortality.

Findings from a new study have shown that people who improve the quality of their diet over time, eating more whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and fish and less red and processed meats and sugary beverages, may significantly reduce their risk of premature death.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine , is the first to show that improving diet quality over at least a dozen years is associated with lower total and cardiovascular mortality, and underscores the importance of maintaining healthy eating patterns over the long term.
Food groups that contributed most to an improvement in diet quality were whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and fish or N-3 fatty acids.

“Our results highlight the long-term health benefits of improving diet quality with an emphasis on overall dietary patterns rather than on individual foods or nutrients. A healthy eating pattern can be adopted according to individuals’ food and cultural preferences and health conditions. There is no one-size-fits-all diet,” said Frank Hu, professor and chair of the Harvard Chan School Department of Nutrition and senior study author.