An interesting new study in the NEJM is a happy reminder that it’s really never too late to start a healthier regime.
In this study that combined data on over 75000 health professionals in the huge Nurses Health Study and the also large Health Professionals Follow-up Study, the researchers conclusion is pretty straight-forward and encouraging: Improved diet quality over 12 years was consistently associated with a decreased risk of death.
In other words, any improvement in diet in this cohort that included a large segment of middle-aged people resulted in a lower risk of death over 12 years’ follow-up.
That part of the study got a lot of media attention.
What didn’t get nearly as much attention, I think, was the equally important finding that worsening diet over 12 years resulted in a significantly higher risk of premature death compared to people who maintained a healthy diet over that time.
So what exactly is a healthy diet?
According to a lead researcher, “healthy dietary patterns includ(e) higher intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes, and lower intakes of red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, and highly refined grains,” not exactly a huge surprise to anyone, I’m sure.
Easy, peasy to summarize this one: If you’re eating well, keep it up (although you can always also improve your diet): and if you’re not eating well, start to do so – the life you may save will be your own.