Longer life for those who follow nutritional guidelines

June 22, 2012

Those who follow the nutritional guidelines issued by Sweden's National Food Agency live longer. This is shown by a new study of the diets of 17 000 Swedish men and women over a long period of time. The greatest effect was observed in men, whose risk of dying of cardiovascular disease was almost halved.

The researchers behind the results, which were recently published in the journal Public Health Nutrition, are Isabel Drake and Elisabet Wirfält from Lund University, .

Eating a varied diet with a high intake of wholegrain foods, fruit and vegetables, fish and seafood and polyunsaturated fats has long been regarded as healthy by scientific experts. However, as interest in our eating habits increases, many nutritional recommendations have been called into question, including the nutritional guidelines from the National Food Agency, which build on these principles.

Drake and Wirfält have shown, however, that there is a clear link between the nutritional guidelines from the National Food Agency and a lower risk of dying among middle-aged and women. One of the most important conclusions is that the problem is not the nutritional guidelines, but rather our poor ability to follow them:

"Surprisingly few - fewer than three per cent - of the participants in the study followed the nutritional recommendations fully. Above all, people ate too much sugar, saturated fat and refined cereal products, for example white bread", says Isabel Drake.

In order to obtain the most comprehensive picture possible, the participants' complete food patterns were studied, and not only parts of their diet as in many other studies.

On average, the individuals' diets were monitored for 14 years. The men who were best at following the nutritional guidelines had a 21 per cent lower mortality rate. Looking specifically at cardiovascular disease, mortality was 41 per cent lower and from cancer-related diseases the figure was 18 per cent. Among women, the overall difference in mortality rate was 14 per cent. For and cancer, however, it was not possible to establish a link with women's diets.

"Women generally ate a healthier diet than men, for example with more fruit and vegetables, and it can therefore be more difficult to identify health benefits for women. There are also biological differences between the sexes that may possibly explain the difference", says Elisabet Wirfält.

The researchers analysed data from the Malmö and Cancer study, with the aim of investigating whether those who followed the nutritional guidelines from the National Food Agency had a lower mortality rate. The data set comprised a total of 17 000 men and women aged 45-73 who had kept a food diary. The participants' diets were graded using a nutritional index that reflects how well they followed the nutritional guidelines.

The research has been part-financed by the Swedish Heart-Lung Foundation.

Explore further: Fiber protects against cardiovascular disease -- especially in women

Related Stories

Fiber protects against cardiovascular disease -- especially in women

April 16, 2012
Foods high in fibre provide good protection against cardiovascular disease, and the effect is particularly marked in women. This is shown in a new study from Lund University in Sweden.

Following cancer prevention guidelines lowers risk of death from cancer, heart disease, all causes

April 14, 2011
A study of more than 100,000 men and women over 14 years finds nonsmokers who followed recommendations for cancer prevention had a lower risk of death from cancer, cardiovascular disease, and all-causes. The study appears ...

Eating low-fat dairy foods may reduce your risk of stroke

April 19, 2012
If you eat low-fat dairy foods, you may be reducing your risk of stroke.

Recommended for you

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

High-dose vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles for children

July 18, 2017
Giving children high doses of vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles, a new study has found.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

alfie_null
not rated yet Jun 24, 2012
the problem is not the nutritional guidelines, but rather our poor ability to follow them

In the U.S., we are immersed in media like TV shows that feature mountains of cupcakes, endless variations on egregiously large hamburgers, how much ice cream someone can consume without rupturing their stomach, etc.

Also lots of marketing from an entrenched industry (whose purpose is solely to convince us to consume more). Bad foods are easily available from lots of outlets. Good foods aren't.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.