Large study links adherence to healthy eating patterns to lower risk of death

Image shows variety of foods that are healthy for your heart, including lots of fruits and vegetables.

Here’s another reason to stick to your New Year’s resolution to make better food choices: Following a healthy eating pattern is linked to a lower risk of death in general and a lower risk of death from heart disease, cancer, lung disease, and neurodegenerative disease specifically, according to a large observational study.  
Researchers followed 75,230 women from the Nurses' Health Study and 44,085 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study over a period of 36 years and graded them on their ability to stick to one of four different healthy eating plans recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Those plans were: Healthy Eating Index 2015, Alternate Mediterranean Diet (AMED), Healthful Plant-based Diet Index, and Alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI). 

The researchers found that people who scored the highest in measures of adherence to these patterns had a 14% to 20% lower risk of death than those who scored lowest. Those who scored highest had a 6% to 15% lower risk of death due to heart disease, a 7% to 18% lower risk of cancer-related death, and a 35% to 46% lower risk of respiratory disease-related death. Those with the highest scores on the AMED and AHEI also saw a modestly lower risk of death due to neurodegenerative disease, the researchers said.  

The study, funded in part by the NHLBI, appeared in JAMA Internal Medicine.