Many of us are always looking for that edge to reduce the risk of mortality. Typically, it is found in simple changes we can make in our daily lives. In a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, people who began eating healthy experienced a decreased risk of death, compared to their peers who had persistently low diet quality. Researchers evaluated the association between 12-year changes in diet quality and the risk of mortality. Diet quality was rated based upon how closely a person’s eating pattern resembled three of the healthiest eating plans: DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), the Alternative Mediterranean Diet and the Alternative Healthy Eating Index.
Although there are differences in each eating plan’s description and composition, each plan captures the essentials of a healthy diet. Researchers found that a 20% increase in diet quality scores associated with an 8-17% reduction in risk of death from any cause. In contrast, a worsening diet quality over 12 years was associated with an increase in mortality of 6 to 12%. These findings are consistent with those of recent meta-analyses showing higher diet-quality scores measured with the Alternative Healthy Eating Index, Alternative Mediterranean Diet, and DASH were associated with a 17 to 26% reduction in the risk of mortality for any cause. An example of a 20% increase in diet score could result from decreasing red and processed meats from 1.5 serving to none and increasing consumption of nuts and legumes from 0 to 1 serving per day. When compared to participants who had consistently low scores, those who had low scores initially and the largest improvement over 12 years had a 15%-28% lower risk of death.
This finding is a reminder that it’s never too late to benefit from adopting a healthier lifestyle. Start improving your eating habits, lose fat and transform your life by joining our New Year New Your challenge.