How to live longer: The best dietary approach for reducing risk of death – major study

Loose Women: Dr Hilary discusses how to live longer

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The dangers posed to life expectancy by eating red meat have been demonstrated in multiple studies. It has been linked to a range of chronic diseases, such as bowel cancer. A study sought to cover new ground by looking at the impact changes in red meat consumption might have on mortality risk and what alternative foods might be associated with greater longevity.

The study, conducted by Yan Zheng of Fudan and Harvard Universities, and colleagues, examined the effects of changes in red meat and other foods consumption in two large prospective cohorts of US women and men: the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.

By analysing data over the period 1994 to 2010 for 53,553 women and 27,916 men, the authors found that increasing the amount of red meat consumed by at least half a serving a day was associated with a 10 percent higher mortality risk.

When looking at increases in consumption of processed red meat only, mortality risk was even higher.

Although decreasing red meat consumption alone did not appear to reduce mortality risk, simultaneously increasing the consumption of whole grains, vegetables, or other protein sources was associated with a reduction in mortality risk.

“This study suggests that replacing red meat (especially processed meat) with healthy alternative choices can help promote longevity,” the researchers concluded.

Why is protein linked to improved health outcomes?

As Harvard Health explains, when we eat foods for protein, we also eat everything that comes alongside it: the different fats, fibre, sodium, and more.

“It’s this protein ‘package’ that’s likely to make a difference for health.”

Available evidence indicates that it’s the source of protein, rather than the amount of protein, that likely makes a difference for our health.

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As Harvard Health explains, eating healthy protein sources like beans, nuts, fish, or poultry in place of red meat and processed meat can lower the risk of several diseases and premature death.

Protein intake may reduce the risk of the following:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Premature death.

What to avoid

“Some fat in the diet is essential, but on average people in the UK eat too much saturated fat,” warns the NHS.

As opposed to fatty cuts of meat, it’s important to get most of your fat from unsaturated oils and spreads, advises the health body.

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What’s more, swapping saturated fats for unsaturated fats can help to lower cholesterol – a fatty substance that hikes your risk of heart disease.

To maximise the benefits of eating healthily, you should also engage in physical exercise.

Not only does regular exercise help you manage your weight and reduce your risk of developing diseases, it can help prevent and treat mental health problems.

As Bupa explains, it can boost your wellbeing and mood, and is a great way to unwind from the stresses of life.

“Try to regularly do exercise that strengthens your bones and muscles – any amount you do is better than none, but adults should aim to do strengthening activities at least two times a week,” advises the health body.

For example, do some resistance exercises with weights or some heavy gardening.

UK health guidelines advise that adults do at least 150 minutes (two hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as cycling or fast walking, every week.

Physical activity can include anything from sport to walking and gardening.

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