Study links diet to longevity, but with confusing findings
Posted by EdR
What you eat might well determine how long you live.
- “Healthy foods” (374 participants)
- “High-fat dairy products” (332)
- “Meat, fried foods, and alcohol” (693)
- “Breakfast cereal” (386)
- “Refined grains” (458)
- “Sweets and desserts” (339)
That “healthy foods” category was defined by relatively higher consumption of low-fat dairy, fruit, whole grains, poultry, fish and vegetables and lower intake of meat, fried foods, sweets, high-calorie beverages and added fat.
A dietary pattern consistent with current guidelines to consume relatively high amounts of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, poultry, ﬁsh and low-fat dairy products may be associated with superior nutritional status, quality of life and survival in older adults.
Unexpectedly, in this and several other studies, a pattern higher in red meat was not signiﬁcantly associated with increased risk of mortality when controlled for relevant confounding factors. One suggested explanation is that plant-based diets may lower health risk because plant foods are protective, whereas diets high in animal foods may be more likely to increase risk only if the animal foods displace protective plant foods in the diet.
As mentioned on the phone, while we can’t give definite reasons for our results, Table 1 in the paper [which shows percentage of total energy intake from selected food groups each cluster’s diet] may provide some ideas for why the “meat, fried foods and alcohol” group didn’t have a statistically significantly higher risk of mortality than the “healthy foods” group after controlling for many variables including education, physical activity, and smoking — in other words, these other variables being equal. As Table 1 shows, the name of the “meat, fried foods and alcohol” group may be a bit misleading, because this group had a more similar diet to the “healthy foods” group than some of the others. We named the groups according to foods that people ate relatively more of in comparison to the other groups. The “meat, fried foods and alcohol” group ate on average about 4 percent of calories from meat, while the “healthy foods” group ate on average about 2.8 percent of calories from meat. The differences in fried food and alcohol intake between the “meat, fried foods and alcohol” group and the “healthy foods” group were also about 1 to 3 percent. In contrast, the “sweets and desserts” group ate on average about 25.8 percent of calories from sweets, while the “healthy foods” group ate on average about 6 percent of calories from sweets — a difference of almost 20 percent in this food group. The “high-fat dairy products” group ate about 17.1 percent of calories from high fat dairy products, while the “healthy foods” group ate about 3.4 percent of calories from high fat dairy products — a difference of almost 14 percent in this food group. In other words, it is not as though the “meat, fried foods and alcohol” group within this study population of 70-79 year-olds ate enormous quantities of these foods, just slightly more on average than the other groups. The “sweets and desserts” and “high-fat dairy products” groups, on the other hand, showed some more stark differences from the “healthy foods” group in their diets.