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Diet Changes to Add Years to Your Life Expectancy

Diet Changes to Add Years to Your Life Expectancy

by Ashleigh Feltham
Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Nutritionist

There is much research on increasing life expectancy. The lifestyle choices we make can promote better quality of life, and increase our life expectancy. A study recently published provides insight into the power of our choices, from as young as 20 years old. Unsurprisingly, what we choose to eat has a massive impact on life expectancy.

Researchers used strong methodology using meta-analyses and results from the 2019 Global Burden of Disease Study. The effects of including different foods on life expectancy were evaluated. The foods assessed were:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Wholegrains
  • Refined grains
  • Nuts
  • Legumes
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Milk/dairy
  • Red meat
  • Processed meat
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages.

Diet Changes to Add Years to Your Life

Results showed that a diet containing more fish, like the quality salmon, tuna, sardines and trout well as whole grains, legumes, fruit, vegetables and a handful of nuts was linked to a longer life expectancy. In contrast, a diet high in sugar-sweetened beverages, red and processed meats like salami, ham and bacon, and refined grains were all linked to lower life expectancy.

If these changes are made from 20 years of age, these dietary swaps could potentially add more than a decade to your life expectancy, for both women and men. The range of increase in life expectancy was 8.4-12.3 years for women and 9.4-14.3 years for men.

The largest increases in life expectancy were seen in individuals that included more nuts, legumes and whole grains, and less red meat and processed meat.

Diet Changes to Add Years to Your Life

But this doesn’t mean that changing our style of eating after the age of 20 won’t have an impact on our life expectancy. For example, from the age of 60, you can increase your life expectancy by up to eight years for women and 8.8 years for men. Making the change at the age of 80 may increase your life expectancy by 3.4 years. At any age, it is more than making alterations to our diets.

This research shows the importance of using a whole-diet approach, rather than focusing on one specific food to promote your longevity. Making the dietary change can be made easier by using a swap rather than stop approach.

 

Easy swaps include replacing red or processed meat meals with plant-based alternatives, like legumes and nuts. Fish is a great swap for red or processed meat. Beef steak could be swapped for tuna steak or baked salmon. Processed meat like ham can easily be substituted with tuna or salmon in a salad or sandwich.

Another easy swap is selecting whole grains instead of refined and processed wheat products, like white bread and rice. Choose wholegrain varieties of rice, pasta, couscous and bread instead of the refined grain varieties. Swap refined breakfast cereals for oats or weetbix, and boost it with a sprinkle of nuts.

Recipes and serving ideas including many of the foods that can increase life expectancy, see the library of recipes on the Safcol Seafood website.


Take home message

Smart dietary choices can add years to your life. Making the necessary dietary additions and swaps will potentially add years to your life expectancy. You’ll thank yourself later.

The Safcol Tuna range. Not only is Safcol the Seafood Experts tuna lunchbox friendly, but it also tastes delicious, and boasts some amazing health benefits! Tuna contains Omega-3 fats that are an unsaturated form of fat called polyunsaturated. These types of fats cannot be made by the body, so we need to include them as part of our diet to stay healthy. For good health, you need omega-3 fats in our diet, particularly the type which comes from fish and seafood because it contains two acids known as docosahexaenoic acid or DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA. These two acids are linked to better health for your body particularly for your brain and heart.

 

Reference:

Fadnes LT, Økland JM, Haaland ØA, Johansson KA. Estimating impact of food choices on life expectancy: A modeling study. PLoS Med. 2022 Feb 8;19(2):e1003889. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1003889. PMID: 35134067; PMCID: PMC8824353.

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