A range of healthy dietary changes could help people live longer

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Adults who improve their eating habits may see a long-term survival benefit, a New England Journal of Medicine study suggests.

Using food-frequency questionnaires from Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study participants, researchers calculated three diet-quality scores for participants from 1986 through 1998 — the Alternate Healthy Eating Index-2010 score, the Alternate Mediterranean Diet Score, and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) score. Changes in these scores over the 12 years were assessed, and subsequent mortality was determined through 2010.

Among the findings:

  • Participants whose diets improved most had significantly lower all-cause mortality rates than those whose diets remained stable. Risk reductions ranged from 9% to 16%, depending on the diet score used.

  • Decreases in diet quality were associated with increased mortality, although the increase didn’t reach statistical significance for every diet score.

  • Participants with persistently high diet-quality scores had lower mortality rates than those with consistently low scores.

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