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Healthy eating patterns reduce the risk of premature death

A team of researchers led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has identified four healthy eating patterns that are associated with a lower risk of premature death. The eating patterns share key components including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes.

According to the experts, study participants who scored high on adherence to at least one of the four healthy eating patterns were less likely to die during the study period from any cause, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, or respiratory disease. 

The findings are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which provides advice on what to eat and drink to meet nutritional needs and prevent disease.

“The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are intended to provide science-based dietary advice that promotes good health and reduces major chronic diseases. Thus, it is critical to examine the associations between DGAs-recommended dietary patterns and long-term health outcomes, especially mortality,” explained study co-author Frank Hu.

The researchers analyzed data from more than 75,000 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study and 44,085 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. At the beginning of the research, all of the participants were free of cardiovascular disease or cancer. The individuals submitted dietary questionnaires every four years. 

For the current investigation, the information was scored based on each of the four dietary pattern indexes: Healthy Eating Index 2015, Alternate Mediterranean Diet, Healthful Plant-based Diet Index, and the Alternate Healthy Eating Index. Participants with a high score on at least one of the indexes were found to have a lower risk of premature death from all causes. 

“It is important to evaluate adherence to DGAs-recommended eating patterns and health outcomes, including mortality, so that timely updates can be made,” said Hu. “Our findings will be valuable for the 2025-2030 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which is being formed to evaluate current evidence surrounding different eating patterns and health outcomes.”

The study is published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

By Chrissy Sexton, Editor

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