We often talk about changing your lifestyle for the sake of better health. New research may spur you on to make healthier choices. A study has found changing your diet could add as much as 13 years to the length of your life.
By changing from a Western diet focused on red meat and processed foods to an “optimized diet” that’s high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts, a 20-year-old man could add 13 years to his life. A woman the same age could add 10 years to her lifespan. If you aren’t 20, there’s no reason to think changing won’t help you! Making the change helps at any age. A 60-year-old woman could gain eight years. A man the same age could gain nine. Men and women age 80 gain about 3.5 years from making the change. The research came from the Univ. of Bergen. The most gains came from eating more legumes, grains and nuts.
Some have argued with calling it an “optimized diet.” The WHO has said that the exact specifications of a healthy diet vary from person to person because of their age, gender, lifestyle or health needs. A diverse, balanced approach is best. But cutting down on red meat and processed foods is a must. WHO has said that, while the perfect diet is different for everyone, “the basic principles of what constitutes a healthy diet remain the same.”
One of the people who rejects calling it an “optimal diet” is Dr. David Katz, a preventive and lifestyle medicine and nutrition specialist. “What they define as an ‘optimal’ diet is not quite optimal; it’s just a whole lot better than ‘typical.’ My impression is that their ‘much improved’ diet still allowed for considerable doses of meat and dairy.”
While that might be true, and an even healthier diet is possible, it’s essential to aim for a sustainable diet. We would argue that the optimal diet is one that’s healthy and manageable. A specific diet might be the most beneficial in the world and could add even more years to life, but if you can’t maintain it, there is little point in championing it or presenting it as a reasonable option.
The team of researchers created an online tool that lets you learn how many years you could add to your life if you changed your diet. It’s a calculator that you put in your current diet and your goal diet, along with your age and gender. It shows you how your life expectancy changes.
Improving your diet is a great way to help yourself live longer and stay well. This research shines a light on how much diet impacts health and lifespan. Speak to your doctor or a nutritionist about the best diet for you.