Healthy diets linked to lower risk of chronic diseases, Harvard study finds

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Eating healthy could be your ticket to a lower risk of chronic diseases, according to researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study, “Optimal dietary patterns for prevention of chronic disease,” published in Nature Medicine, concludes that adhering to recommended diets correlates to improved health outcomes.

In a comprehensive review of multiple dietary guidelines, the researchers examined 32 years of data from 205,852 participants aged 25 to 75 at the start of the data collection.

The participants, consisting of 162,667 women from the Nurses’ Health Study and Nurses’ Health Study II, and 43,185 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, regularly provided details on their lifestyle, medical history, and food consumption.

Over a median follow-up of 26 years per participant, the study recorded 44,975 major chronic disease events, including 12,962 cases of major cardiovascular diseases, 18,615 cases of diabetes, and 17,909 instances of cancer.

Even though participants in the study weren’t explicitly following recommended diets, researchers sorted the reported diets based on adherence levels using a weighted system.

The study then compared health outcomes against the levels of adherence to several dietary patterns, including the Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010, Alternate Mediterranean Diet, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, Diabetes Risk Reduction Diet,

Healthful Plant-Based Diet Index, reversed Empirical Dietary Index for hyperinsulinemia, reversed Empirical Dietary Inflammation pattern, and the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research diet.

The study found that adherence to any of the dietary patterns correlated with a lower disease risk.

For example, someone could rank highly in the Healthful Plant-Based Diet Index but score lower in others due to coffee or wine intake.

Those who followed guidelines aimed at reducing inflammation, high blood insulin levels, or diabetes were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

On the flip side, diets rich in processed meats, energy drinks, red meat, French fries, and eggs were linked to a higher likelihood of major chronic diseases.

Interestingly, consumption of coffee, whole grains, wine, and desserts was associated with a lower risk of major chronic diseases.

However, these findings were part of larger dietary patterns with various associated food intake strategies, and there isn’t any coffee, whole grain, wine, and dessert-based diet to choose from in the guidelines.

If you care about heart health, please read studies about the best time to take vitamins to prevent heart disease and calcium supplements could harm your heart health.

For more information about nutrition, please see recent studies that magnets in common popular devices could harm your heart health, and results showing Vitamin K2 could help reduce heart disease risk.

The study was published in Nature Medicine.

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