The Standard American Diet ("SAD" for obvious reasons) has commonly been associated with higher rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. In a recent study, Norwegian scientists examined what effect healthful types of food can have on our life expectancy, based on a statistical model. Formulating an online calculator tool based on their research, changes in dietary habits can be adjusted to see what impact this would have on extending an individual's life. Some of the biggest beneficial impacts based on their research were shown to come from eating diets high in plant-based foods (no, not the impossible burger), whole grains, legumes, nuts, fruits, and fish. This could be what we might term a Mediterranean Diet. Processed meats, red meats, refined grains, and sugars were found to all contribute negatively in regards to extended life years.
As an example, a 20 year old man in the U.S. could extend his life up to 13 years, and a 20 year old female by 11 years by making long-term healthy diet changes. What was even more interesting was that a 60 year old man could still increase life expectancy by 8 years and a 60 year old female by 9 years. This observation is amazing knowing that a 60 year old individual already likely has some type of disease burden (heart disease, vascular disease, brain atrophy, etc.) present, but yet healthy diet modification can slow and possibly modify or reverse some of the damage present. I can only assume this comes from the overall lowering of inflammation in the body and supporting our own natural mechanisms that repair DNA damage. In addition, I would fully expect to see even greater benefits when things like regular exercise, intermittent fasting, micronutrient, and hormone optimization are added to dietary changes. In combination, making these types of changes in our diet and lifestyle help propel us even further into a more active, quality of life in years vs life extension and the burden of disease.
Although none of us are perfect, making even small changes in multiple areas can have a big impact on our quality of life and it is never too late to start.