These foods promote longevity and wellbeing in your 70s, study finds

These foods promote longevity and wellbeing in your 70s, study finds

These foods promote longevity and wellbeing in your 70s, study finds

How do you age gracefully? There is plenty of advice out there, ranging from the expected to the downright weird, but time and time again it comes back to the old faithful – your diet.

A new study unveiled at Nutrition 2024 outlined how fewer than 1 in 10 people were able to live free of disease and maintain good physical, cognitive and mental health to age 70 and beyond.

However, it’s not all bad news. The same study revealed that sticking to a healthy and balanced diet in your midlife could change this picture, and increase your chance of achieving healthy ageing.


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Based on data from over 100,000 people spanning 30 years, the study revealed that those following a healthy diet in their 40s onwards were 43 to 84 per cent more likely to be well-functioning physically at age 70.

“People who adhered to healthy dietary patterns in midlife, especially those rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats, were significantly more likely to achieve healthy ageing,” said Anne-Julie Tessier, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard School of Public Health who presented the findings. “This suggests that what you eat in midlife can play a big role in how well you age.”

So what foods exactly should you be eating for a long life? The researchers highlight the importance of increasing the intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, unsaturated fats, nuts, legumes and low-fat dairy.

Conversely, foods associated with lower odds of healthy ageing included trans fats, sodium, red meats and processed meats.

Healthy eating has a long history of connections with its ability to ward off chronic diseases, but this study focuses on healthy ageing. That includes not just disease prevention but the ability to enjoy a good life in old age.

“Traditionally, research and derived dietary guidelines have focused on preventing chronic diseases like heart disease,” said Tessier. “Our study provides evidence for dietary recommendations to consider not only disease prevention but also promoting overall healthy ageing as a long-term goal.”

Participants in the study were at least 39 years old and free of chronic diseases at the start. They provided dietary information via questionnaires every four years.

By 2016, nearly half of the participants had died and just 9.2 per cent survived to age 70 or older while maintaining freedom from chronic diseases and good physical, cognitive and mental health.

The team behind the study compared rates of healthy ageing amongst people in the highest versus lowest quintiles for adherence to eight different healthy dietary patterns, all of which have previously been identified by scientific research for their effectiveness.

The strongest correlation came from the alternative healthy eating index – a system that grades your diet, assigning a score ranging from 0 to 110 based on how often you eat certain foods. Participants in the top quintile for this diet were 84 per cent more likely to achieve healthy ageing compared to those at the lowest end.

Even when the researchers accounted for physical activity and other factors known to impact health, the ties between diet and healthy ageing remained strong. Each of the healthy dietary patterns was also linked with an uptick in physical health, cognitive functioning and mental health.

About the expert

Anne-Julie Tessier is a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard School of Public Health. Her research has been published in prestigious journals such as Nature Communications and PLoS One.

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