36 Years Long Study Shows that Variety of Healthy Eating Patterns Is Associated with Lower Risk of Early Death

36 Years Long Study Shows that Variety of Healthy Eating Patterns Is Associated with Lower Risk of Early Death

According to a new study, the risk of premature death can be reduced significantly by a variety of healthy eating patterns.

The researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that people who followed at least one of four healthy eating patterns had a reduced risk of premature death caused by serious diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and respiratory disease.

And sure enough, these findings match the current Dietary Guidelines for America, which also recommend multiple healthy eating patterns.

About this, the paper’s author, Frank Hu, shared that “The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are intended to provide science based dietary advice that promotes good health and also reduces major chronic diseases. Thus, it’s critical to examine the associations between DGAs-recommended dietary patterns and long term health outcomes, especially mortality.”

This is an important finding since not very many studies have looked into whether a higher adherence to the DGAs recommended healthy dietary patterns can be linked to long term early death or not.

The team of researchers used data collected from 75,230 women who were part of the Nurses’ Health Study as well as 44,085 men who participated in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, over a period of no less than 36 years.

At the beginning of this study, none of the participants were diagnosed with cancer or cardiovascular disease and they made sure to complete dietary questionnaires every 4 years.

The data they shared this way was then scored based on the 4 dietary pattern indexes – Alternate Mediterranean Diet, Alternate Healthy Eating Index, Healthy Eating Index 2015 and Healthful Plant-based Diet Index.

That being said, it’s important to note that all four share key components such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts but there are also other components that are different across eating patterns.

As mentioned before, scoring a higher score on one or more of the indexes was directly linked to lower risk of early death caused by cancer, respiratory disease and cardiovascular disease in particular but also across all potential causes.

For instance, higher scores on the AHEI and the AMED were linked to a lower death risk from neurogenerative illnesses.

It’s important to note the current DGAs (2015–2020) recommend people adhere to multiple healthy eating patterns that can then be adapted to each person’s personal preference and dietary tradition.

Every 5 years, the Guidelines get updated by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and of Agriculture.

Hu mentions that “It’s important to evaluate adherence to DGAs recommended eating patterns and health outcomes, including mortality, so timely updates can be made. Our findings can be valuable for the 2025 to 2030 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which is now being formed to evaluate current evidence about different eating patterns and health outcomes.”


Katherine is just getting her start as a journalist. She attended a technical school while still in high school where she learned a variety of skills, from photography to nutrition. Her enthusiasm for both natural and human sciences is real so she particularly enjoys covering topics on medicine and the environment.

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