Can dietary habits influence life expectancy? A recent study highlights the possibility of reducing the risk of mortality through a specific diet.
Certain eating habits can help take care of your cardiovascular health or could have virtues in reducing the risk of dementia. But what are the eating habits to adopt to live longer? This is the question on which English, American and Chinese researchers have worked.
The latter compared the effects of a diet low in fat, such as the “low fat” diet, or low in carbohydrates, such as the “low carb” diet, to live longer. Their results are published in the Journal of Internal Medicine.
A “low carb” diet aims to limit the amount of carbohydrates consumed in a day. If it removes foods such as sweets, starches or legumes, this diet recommends the consumption of fish, meat and certain vegetables.
A diet following the low-fat diet consists mainly of fruits, vegetables, but also lean meats, whole pasta or rice. The objective of this diet is to reduce the share of fats without however excluding them completely.
To carry out their research, the specialists relied on a panel of 371,159 participants, enrolled in a study on food and health, whose data was collected in 1995. The volunteers were aged 50 to 71 years. Over the period measured by the study, namely 23 years, 165,698 deaths were recorded.
To find out about the eating habits of the participants, they completed a questionnaire measuring the frequency of consumption of certain foods.
They then ranked everyone's diet according to sugar content and fat content. More specifically, they differentiated between people with a “healthy” or “unhealthy” diet as well as a “high” or “low” fat intake.
The authors found that people who ate a diet high in fatty foods had a “a significantly higher total, cardiovascular and cancer mortality rate” than the others. In contrast, people who ate a low-fat diet " were associated with slightly lower mortality rates."
Specifically, healthy people closest to the low-fat diet (i.e. low fat) had 18% lower mortality from cardiovascular disease or cancer than people furthest from this diet. On the other hand, people who had a low carbohydrate diet, namely the “low carb” diet, had "slightly" reduced the risk of early mortality.
“Our results support the importance of maintaining a healthy diet with less saturated fat in preventing all-cause mortality and cause-specific mortality in middle-aged and elderly people” write the researchers.