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How to live longer: The diet linked to a ‘disease-free life expectancy’ past the age of 50

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Cardiometabolic diseases (CMDs) are the number one cause of death in the world. Cardiometabolic diseases are a group of common but often preventable conditions including heart attack, stroke, diabetes, insulin resistance and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Reducing your risk of developing cardiometabolic diseases is therefore a key ingredient to achieving longevity.

A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition aimed to investigate the association of diet quality with cardiometabolic disease–free life expectancy between ages 50 and 85.

Researchers assessed the relationship between the health outcomes of 8041 participants of the Whitehall II cohort study (an interdisciplinary study of ageing) and adherence to the Alternative Healthy Eating Index 2010 (AHEI-2010).

The AHEI-2010 is based on 11 components: six components for which the highest intakes were supposed to be ideal (vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts and legumes and polyunsaturated fats), one component for which only moderate intake was supposed to be ideal (alcohol), and four components for which avoidance or lowest intake were supposed to be ideal (sugar-sweetened drinks and fruit juice, red and processed meat, trans-fats, and sodium).

Each component was given a minimal score of 0 and a maximal score of 10.

READ MORE: How to live longer: The simple and free daily habit that’s linked to a longer lifespan

A higher score represented a healthier diet.

Cardiometabolic disease–free life expectancy was defined based on the years without these chronic diseases.

What did the researchers find out?

The number of cardiometabolic disease–free life-years after age 50 was 23.9 years for participants with the healthiest diet, that is, a higher score on the AHEI-2010, and 21.4 years for participants with the unhealthiest diet.

The association between diet quality and cardiometabolic disease–free life expectancy followed a dose–response pattern, meaning the more participants adhered to the dietary pattern, the greater the benefits.

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What’s more, the finding was consistent across occupational position, body mass index (BMI), physical activity level, and smoking habit.

“Healthier dietary habits are associated with cardiometabolic disease–free life expectancy between ages 50 and 85,” the researchers concluded.

What to avoid

Cutting back on saturated fat is key to living a long life.

Saturated fat is the kind of fat found in butter, lard, ghee, fatty meats and cheese.

“To reduce our risk of ill health from inactivity, we are advised to exercise regularly, at least 150 minutes a week, and reduce sitting time,” advises the NHS.

According to the health body, sitting for long periods is thought to slow the metabolism, which affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and break down body fat.

“Many adults in the UK spend around nine hours a day sitting,” it adds.

“This includes watching TV, using a computer, reading, doing homework, travelling by car, bus or train but does not include sleeping.”

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