Eating healthily increases the length of time a person lives, research has revealed.
The diets of 2,500 Americans aged between 70 and 79 were compared for the study, which discovered that those who ate more “high fat” foods were 40% more likely to die over 10 years than those who chose to eat “healthy foods”.
A “healthy food” diet was defined by scientists as containing dairy products that were low-fat, fruit, vegetables, poultry, fish and whole grains. It was also recognised as healthy when the consumption of meat, fried foods, sweets, high-calorie drinks and added fat was low.
Researchers split the food preferences of the participants into six different dietary “clusters”. The categories were “healthy foods”, “high-fat dairy products”, “meat, fried foods and alcohol”, “breakfast cereal”, “refined grains,” and “sweets and desserts”.
The “high fat dairy products” category had higher intakes of foods such as ice cream, cheese, whole milk and yoghurt, and lower consumption of poultry, low-fat dairy products, rice and pasta.
A 37% higher risk of dying was associated with the “sweets and desserts” cluster, and a 21% increased risk with the “meat, fried foods and alcohol” cluster.
No significant differences in death risk was seen between “healthy foods” and the “breakfast cereal” or “refined grains” clusters.
In total, 374 of study participants made “healthy foods” a predominant part of their diet, while 693 preferred “meat, fried foods and alcohol”.
The findings appear in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.