Wangle some walnuts, bag some Brazils or cadge some cashews – any nuts you like, provided you crunch them in place of a portion of meat. Your reward: extra years of healthy living.
New research has shown that you can cut your risk of an early death by as much as 17 per cent by eating a serving of nuts in place of a serving of meat. That means swapping a sausage for a handful of nuts or replacing a slice of bacon with a spoonful of peanut butter could keep you on this planet for longer.
The research, conducted at Ohio University, found improving the diet by 20 percentile points was linked to an 8-17 percent drop in the risk of early death from any cause. Lead author Dr Mercedes Sotos-Prieto said that improvement could be achieved by something as simple as eating a portion of nuts instead of meat.
The research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, shows that even those who come late to healthy eating can feel the benefit – and increase longevity. Based on two long-running studies, it is the first to reveal that adults who swap unhealthy diets for healthier ones in middle age or later can still improve their chances of enjoying more of their golden years.
The studies of 74,000 health professionals, most of them aged 60 or over, began in the 1970s and 1980s. The research focused on a 12-year period between 1998 and 2010, when almost 10,000 of those taking part in the two studies died, and explored connections between mortality and any dietary changes made over the previous 12 years.
The risk of early death was found to decrease for those who had made the decision to consume less meat and more nuts, legumes and vegetables. The health of those who followed two meat-reducing diets – the Alternative Healthy Eating Diet and the Alternative Mediterranean Diet – improved by a fifth over that period.
“Our results underscore the concept that modest improvements in diet quality over time could meaningfully influence mortality risk,” Sotos-Prieto said, adding: “It’s never too late to improve diet quality.”
“The essential elements of a healthy diet include higher intakes of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and beans, and lower intakes of red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages and highly refined grains, like white rice and flour.”