Google the term “diet” and a plethora of options will arise on the screen. Most will have a stated purpose such as reducing blood sugar levels, losing weight, gaining muscle, reducing visceral fat. However, could the length of time following a certain diet also be as important as the diet itself? A new study from Norway suggests so.

Published in the journal PLOS Medicine, a new study has established that by switching to a healthier diet earlier in life could increase life expectancy significantly.

Conducted by the University of Bergen, the researchers suggested that if a woman switched to an optimal diet at the age of 20 they could expect to see a life expectancy gain of around 10 years.

Meanwhile, if a man started eating a healthier diet from the age of 20, they could expect to see 13 years added to their lifespan.

Dr David Katz, an expert in preventative and lifestyle medicine, responded to the study: “The notion that improving diet quality would reduce the risk of chronic disease and premature death is long established, and it only stands to reason that less chronic disease and premature death means more life expectancy.”

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However, when it comes to the specific diet required for a long life, the study uses the word “optimal”.

An optimal diet could vary depending on which scientists and doctors an individual speaks to.

In response Katz summarised this ambiguity: “What they define as an ‘optimal’ diet is not quite normal; it’s just a whole lot better than ‘typical’.

“My impression is that their ‘much improved’ diet still allowed for considerable doses of meat and dairy.”


With regard to what caused the extended life expectancy, the study found that the consumption of more legumes including, peas, beans, and lentils had an impact.

So too did consuming more wholegrains and nuts.

The study then, as Katz suggests, is not puritanical in its approach; it does allow for the inclusion of mainstream dietary indulgences.

Nevertheless, it does highlight the importance of a balanced diet and how such a simple act can have such major consequences.

Meanwhile, on legumes and vegetables in question, it was recently found vegetables do not play such a large role in heart disease as originally thought.

A study conducted by Oxford, Bristol, and Hong Kong Universities recently found that vegetables alone are not enough to reduce a person’s risk of heart disease.

During a study where participants were tracked for 12 years, individuals recorded what their diet entailed.

According to the study those who ate the most vegetables were found to be 15 percent less likely to die from heart disease.

However, the authors of the study said this could be explained by other factors.

Furthermore, while vegetables alone are not enough to reduce cardiovascular risk, this is not to say they are not key to a healthy life.

A balanced diet, in conjunction with exercise and positive lifestyle habits, is the best way to remain fit and healthy.

For more information about improving diet contact the NHS or consult with your GP.

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