A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health shows additional benefits of following a healthy diet such as the Mediterranean diet and DASH diet.
The traditional Mediterranean diet is characterized by high consumption of olive oil, fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes (such as beans, peas and lentils), as well as moderate consumption of fish and wine. The DASH diet was designed to help treat or prevent high blood pressure (hypertension) with a diet low in sodium and high in whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
In the study “Association of Changes in Diet Quality with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality,” scientists reviewed the eating habits of more than 73,000 people over a 12-year period. They also analyzed data such as: age, weight, medical history, use of medications and vitamins, and exercise habits.
Overall, the scientists found that an improved diet - even with small improvements - was associated with a lower risk of premature death.
In fact, scientists found that people whose diet closely resembled the Mediterranean diet had an 11% lower risk of death compared to people who followed poor diets during the 12-year study.
Foods that appeared to contribute the most to improved health included: whole grains, vegetables, fruits and fish.
“Overall, our findings underscore the benefits of healthy eating patterns including the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet. Our study indicates that even modest improvements in diet quality could meaningfully influence mortality risk and conversely, worsening diet quality may increase the risk,” said lead author Mercedes Sotos-Prieto, PhD.