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Dietary advice of all kinds is flooding the internet. However, clear advice based on real scientific research is less common. What are good diets to improve health? Harvard researchers present a comparative analysis—perhaps the most comprehensive to date—of the health benefits of four known diets. Containing raw seeds, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes, these diets are strongly associated with a reduced risk of premature death.
The Official Dietary Guidelines (DGA) are published every five years in the United States, which recommend a variety of diets that can be adapted to preferences, age, traditions, etc. Although these guidelines were developed by the US Department of Health, they can be applied in many other countries around the world. .
A new study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine recommends four diets that are considered healthy. The first is based on the Healthy Eating Index published in 2015 by the American Center for Childhood Obesity Research. This guide recommends not exceeding the daily allowance for various food groups such as fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. The second recommended diet is the Alternative Mediterranean, which includes quantitative data on fruits, fish, nuts, alcohol, etc. The third is based on a plant-based diet, and the last is an alternative healthy diet (covering all food categories, but not in excessive amounts).
Despite the big differences, these four diets have one thing in common that experts say can reduce the risk of chronic disease and premature death. Each of these diets includes, but is not limited to, raw seeds, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes. It should be remembered that although they provide health benefits, it is necessary to properly distribute them in order to get the maximum benefit from them.
However, it is not yet clear which dietary habits are most beneficial for longevity. The Harvard study is based solely on surveys, not scientific monitoring. However, long-term studies have shown that using one of the four diets is associated with lower mortality.
It would be important to evaluate adherence to healthy eating habits, as well as long-term health outcomes and mortality, in order to make appropriate updates, according to the researchers of the new study. “DGAs are dedicated to providing evidence-based nutritional advice that promotes good health and reduces major chronic diseases. Thus, it is critical to study the links between DGA-recommended diets and long-term health outcomes, especially mortality,” says Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology and director of the Department of Nutrition at the TH Public Health Institute. Chan is from Harvard and the author of the new study.
“Our findings will benefit the 2025-2030 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which is being formed to evaluate current data on various eating patterns and health outcomes,” Hu adds. According to the expert, there is still little research on the long-term risk of overall and causal specific mortality, which DGA diets can potentially reduce. In addition, accurate data on the decline in mortality will also support efforts to promote healthy eating.
Adopting at least one of the diets will have a positive impact on health
To evaluate the diets recommended by the DGA, researchers in the new study collected 36 years of health data from 75,230 women and 44,085 men with the help of healthcare professionals. At the start of the study, all participants did not have cancer or cardiovascular disease. They were then asked to complete questionnaires about their eating habits every four years.
The results showed that participants who scored highest on any of the four diets mentioned above were less likely to die during the entire study period, regardless of cause. In particular, they had a reduced incidence of cardiovascular, oncological and respiratory diseases.
Higher scores on the Mediterranean Alternative Diet and the Healthy Alternative Diet were associated with a lower risk of death from neurodegenerative diseases. These results hold true for several ethnic groups, including African Americans, Hispanics, and Caucasians.