A large study reports a dramatic increase in life expectancy among people who abandon poor diets (soft drinks, processed meats, plant deficiencies) in favor of diets based primarily on plant foods.
It is estimated that one in five deaths worldwide can be directly attributed to poor nutrition1.
This means that 11 million premature deaths could be prevented each year by improving eating habits, an effect even more pronounced than that associated with quitting smoking (8 million deaths).
These devastating effects of poor nutrition can be seen worldwide, including in rich countries.
For example, a recent study reports that in Canada, up to 39% of male deaths and 23% of female deaths are due to poor nutrition.2.
What to eat?
There are different ways to eat well, but all eating habits that have a positive impact on health have some things in common:
1. a high intake of plant foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains);
2. a moderate intake of animal proteins (fish, meat, eggs, dairy products);
3. a minimal intake of highly processed industrial products, especially cold cuts and foods containing refined flour and added sugar.
However, these behaviors are not adopted by the majority of the Canadian population: half of daily calories come from highly processed foods, consumption of animal proteins such as meat and cold cuts far exceeds recommended amounts, while intake of health products of plant origin is significantly lower what has been repeatedly linked to a reduction in the risk of all chronic diseases.
There is therefore no doubt that all these factors contribute to the high proportion of diet-related deaths in the population.
A recent study shows how changing these poor eating habits can affect life expectancy3.
By analyzing data collected from 467,354 participants in the UK Biobank, researchers confirmed that the type of diet associated with the best life expectancy is high in plants, low in red meat and very low in cold meats and products based on refined flour and added Sugar.
Not surprisingly, the worst diet is the opposite, with very few plants but lots of cold cuts, refined flours, and sugary drinks. Of all the foods analyzed, whole grains and nuts are associated with the lowest premature mortality, while processed meats and soft drinks are most strongly associated with an increased risk of mortality.
The researchers calculated that for a 40-year-old person whose diet is unhealthy (cold meats, soft drinks, highly processed products, few plants), switching to the best diet is associated with a spectacular gain of around 10 years of life expectancy.
The sooner the better, but this dietary change can also be beneficial at older ages, with a gain of 8 years for a 60-year-old and 3 years for an 80-year-old.
At a time when we are constantly exposed to a dizzying number of industrial food products, many of which are loaded with fat, sugar and salt, the results of this study remind us that it is best to take a defensive stance when dealing with these products Instead, prefer “real” foods from nature, especially those of plant origin.
Food is not a consumer product like any other: On the contrary: what we eat is the parameter that has the greatest influence on the duration of our existence.
1. GBD 2017 Diet Collaborators. Health impacts of nutritional risks in 195 countries, 1990–2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. lancet 2019; 393: 1958-1972.
2. Jessri M et al. Mortality and lost life expectancy in Canada due to dietary habits: Findings from the Canadian National Nutrition Survey linked to routinely collected health administration databases. At the. J. Epidemiol. 2023; 192:377-396.
3. Fadnes LT et al. Life expectancy could increase by up to 10 years following ongoing shifts towards healthier diets in the UK. Natural food 2023; 4:961-965.
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