Healthy eating is the secret to a fuller life, US research confirms
Healthy eating really can help people live longer, according to new research on diets.
A study comparing the diets of 2,500 older Americans found that "high fat" eating individuals were 40 per cent more likely to die over ten years than those who preferred "healthy foods".
The researchers defined a "healthy foods" diet as one which contained more low-fat dairy products, fruit, whole grains, poultry, fish and vegetables.
It was also characterised by a lower consumption of meat, fried foods, sweets, high-calorie drinks and added fat.
Scientists divided the food preferences of participants, aged 70-79, into six different dietary "clusters". These were classified as "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 per cent higher risk of dying was associated with the "sweets and desserts" cluster, and a 21 per cent increased risk was linked with the "meat, fried foods and alcohol" diet cluster.
No significant differences in death risk was seen with the "healthy foods" and the "breakfast cereal" or "refined grains" clusters.
In total, 374 of the study participants made "healthy foods" a predominant part of their diet, while 693 preferred "meat, fried foods and alcohol".
In Scotland, concern over poor diet, containing deep fried foods and sugary fizzy drinks, prompted the Scottish Government to ban sugary, fizzy drinks, fatty snacks and sweets from schools.
The new legislation limited the number of times chips and other fatty meals could be served each week in school canteens.
It came after Scotland was condemned as the second fattest nation in the developed world, second only to the United States, in an international study.
The study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), carried out in 2007, found one in four Scots were obese.
The latest findings on diets and health expectancy appear in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
Lead scientist Dr Amy Anderson, from the University of Maryland, US, said: "The results of this study suggest that older adults who follow a dietary pattern consistent with current guidelines to consume relatively high amounts of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry and fish, may have a lower risk of mortality.
"Because a substantial percentage of older adults in this study followed the 'healthy foods' diet, adherence appears a feasible and realistic recommendation for potentially improved survival and quality of life in the growing older adult population."
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