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Eat smart in your 40s to be healthier in your 70s: study

This representational image shows a bowl of salad. — Pexels

A recent study by Harvard researchers revealed that if you eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains and unsaturated fats in midlife, you may live better later.

The study, which was presented at a major nutrition conference earlier this week, suggested that eating well in your 40s can improve the chances of good mental, physical and cognitive health decades later, NBC News reported.

This is because incorporating a healthy diet early in your life potentially lowers the risk of developing chronic diseases and helps in maintaining cognitive function in older age, according to the study.

Harvard researchers analysed 30 years of data on over 106,000 participants from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. 

The study, which commenced in 1986, included 70,467 women and 36,464 men, who were at least 39 years old and free of chronic disease at the beginning of the study.

Dietician Anne-Julie Tessier, who is the lead author and research associate at Harvard School of Public Health, said the study required participants to fill out an extensive food frequency questionnaire every four years, from 1986 to 2010.

Every participant’s personal diet was tracked over time to see how well they matched to eight highly nutritious dietary patterns.

The diets they compared the food questionnaires to included:

The DASH diet

A meal plan, developed by the National Institutes of Health, intended to prevent or lower blood pressure by focusing on vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

Alternative healthy eating index (AHEI)

This diet encourages more legumes, nuts and vegetables and lower amounts of red meat and processed meats.

Planetary health diet

An eating plan that minimizes animal products and emphasises fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats.

Overall, the researchers found that a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, unsaturated fats, nuts, legumes and low-fat dairy is linked to healthy ageing, than the people whose diets consisted of more trans fats, sodium, red and processed meats.

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