Producers Resource Center

New Study Ties Diet To Less Critical Illness, Longer Life

December 27, 2010.  According to medical researchers, today’s leading causes of death have shifted from infectious diseases to chronic diseases.  These include cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Both of these illnesses may be affected by diet a study published in the January 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association reveals. 

Researchers examined data regarding the associations of dietary patterns with mortality through analysis of the eating patterns of over 2500 adults between the ages of 70 and 79 over a ten-year period. They found that diets favoring certain foods were associated with reduced mortality.

By 2030, an estimated 973 million adults will be aged 65 or older worldwide according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks data related to critical illnesses. This study sought to determine the dietary patterns of a large and diverse group of older adults, and to explore connections between these dietary patterns with survival over a 10-year period.

Researchers were able to group the participants into six different clusters according to predominant food choices including healthy foods, high-fat dairy products, meat, fried foods, and alcohol and sweets and desserts.

The “Healthy foods” cluster was characterized by relatively higher intake of low-fat dairy products, fruit, whole grains, poultry, fish, and vegetables, and lower consumption of meat, fried foods, sweets, high-calorie drinks, and added fat. The “High fat dairy products” cluster had higher intake of foods such as ice cream, cheese, and 2% and whole milk and yogurt, and lower intake of poultry, low-fat dairy products, rice, and pasta.

The study was unique in that it evaluated participants’ quality of life and nutritional status, through detailed biochemical measures, according to their dietary patterns.

After controlling for gender, age, race, clinical site, education, physical activity, smoking, and total calorie intake, the “High-fat dairy products” cluster had a 40% higher risk of mortality than the “Healthy foods” cluster. The “Sweets and desserts” cluster had a 37% higher risk. No significant differences in risk of mortality were seen between the “Healthy foods” cluster and the “Breakfast cereal” or “Refined grains” clusters.

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