Research reveals the foods to avoid for a longer, healthier life

Jul 07, 2024
Maintaining a healthy diet is an important pillar of health for over 60s as it plays a crucial role in maintaining and even improving overall health and well-being. Source: Getty Images.

A new study suggests that older adults who consume a diet rich in processed meats, soft drinks, and junk food may have a shorter lifespan compared to those who follow a balanced diet.

The study from the American National Cancer Institute examined the eating habits of over half a million people aged 50 to 71 years old, then analysed their mortality rate over a 23 year period.

Stadtman Investigator at the National Cancer Institute, Dr Erikka Loftfield said the study found a link between eating more higher-processed foods with an increased risk of dying. Moreover, Dr Loftfield and her colleagues found that the same diet increased your risk of dying from heart disease and diabetes.

“Our study results support a larger body of literature, including both observational and experimental studies, which indicate that ultra-processed food intake adversely impacts health and longevity,” she said.

“However, there is still a lot that we don’t know, including what aspects of ultra-processed foods pose potential health risks.”

The study looked at the health and eating habits of American particpants starting from the mid-1990s, then analysed overall death rates among those who ate a diet high in ultra-processed foods versus those who ate the least.

“We observed that highly processed meat and soft drinks were a couple of the subgroups of ultra-processed food most strongly associated with mortality risk and eating a diet low in these foods is already recommended for disease prevention and health promotion,” Loftield said.

While the study shows a link between eating high processed foods and an increased risk of death, the results are not conclusive and Loftfield noted that food supply and dietary preferences have changed considerably since the study’s data was collected in the mid 1990s.

Maintaining a healthy diet is an important pillar of health for over 60s as it plays a crucial role in maintaining and even improving overall health and well-being.

Principle Nutritionist and Director of Sydney City Nutritionist and Food Intolerance Australia, Jennifer May says “eating a balanced diet can help older adults reduce the risk of, or manage, chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease, as well as reduce their risk of falls and fractures” while highlighting the importance of over 60s maintaining a healthy diet.

“Eating nutrient-rich foods also helps support cognitive function and mental health by providing essential vitamins and minerals that are necessary for proper brain functioning,” May says.

“Additionally, consuming more fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and other fibre-rich foods can support digestive health while keeping feeling energised throughout the day.”

Although maintaining a healthy diet can present its challenges, particularly when it comes to knowing what to eat, how much and how best to get started, May stresses that it’s important “take it slow, don’t strive for perfection and know that each small change will gradually improve your health and get you to your goal of feeling younger, stronger, healthier.”

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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