We have already known for several years that the way we eat has a direct impact on our health, our aging and our life expectancy. But until now there was no simple method to estimate how much each change in our diet can extend our life.
A new study published on February 8 on PLOS Medicine by a group of Norwegian researchers who used data from the Global Burden of Diseases study concludes that if we change from a typical occidental diet to an optimal diet from the age of 20 years old, we could increase our life expectancy by about 10.7 years for women and 13 years for men.
If the change is made at age 60, the increase is a little less, 8-9 years, but even at age 80, life can be extended by about 3 years.
Thanks to the free interactive Food4HealthyLife online calculator you can easily estimate the beneficial effect of any food group on your own life.
The largest gains in years of life expectancy would be made by eating more legumes (females: 2.2 [1.0-3.4]; males: 2.5 [1.1-3.9]), more whole grains (females: 2.0 [0.7-3.3]; males: 2.3 [0.8-3.8]), and more nuts (females: 1.7 [0.8-2.7]; males: 2.0 [1.0-3.0]), less red meat (females: 1.6 [0.7-2.5]; males: 1.9 [0.8-3.0]) and less processed meat (females: 1.6 [0.7-2.5]; males: 1.9 [0.8-3.0]). In practice here is yet another confirmation that we should follow the Mediterranean diet.
I invite you to use the calculator and evaluate the changes you can make to your own diet. You will notice that we differentiate between “optimal diet” and “achievable diet”, because we understand very well that it is not realistic to begin big changes all at once and therefore in the calculator we suggest achievable changes because every step in the right direction counts towards improving one’s health.
It is also important to note that while important, good eating habits are not enough to lengthen our lives. Incidentally, the term “diet” derives from the ancient Greek work dìaita which translates to a “way of life”. This obviously includes regular physical exercise but also other types of “exercises”, mental, spiritual, cultural, which can have a favorable impact on longevity.
If you need a little help to change your habits, I’ll remind you that all of our meal plans are based on the Mediterranean diet and can therefore help you to consume more legumes, whole grains and nuts.
* Lars T. Fadnes, Jan-Magnus Økland, Øystein A. Haaland, Kjell Arne Johansson (2022) Estimating impact of food choices on life expectancy: A modeling study PLOS MEDICINE https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1003889