By Shawn McKee
It may sound like a complex algebraic equation, but it’s really as simple as elementary addition — four basic changes in your behavior can add up to an extra 14 years of life. This was the result of the largest study of diet and health ever conducted.
The study, published in the journal PLoS Medicine, examined the longevity impact of making four lifestyle changes and found that those who adopted four healthy behaviors lived an average of 14 years longer than those who adopted none of these healthy habits.
The University of Cambridge and the Medical Research Council found that participants increased their longevity and lived and average of 14 years longer than their study counterparts by:
–Drinking alcohol in moderation
–Eating five servings of fruits and vegetables
Study participants who didn’t do any of the four behaviors died sooner than those who followed all of them. While these behaviors are individually known to improve health, this is the first time researchers combined, quantified and applied to actual longevity of life.
“We know that each of these individual behaviors will have positive effects on overall health, but by combining all four of them, the positive outcomes are multiplied,” explains eDiets Director of Nutrition Services Pam Ofstein. “There are still many behaviors and factors that need to be researched further, but this longevity study does shed some light on the importance of combining a healthy lifestyle with whole natural foods and exercise.”
To examine the combined effects of not smoking, exercising, drinking alcohol in moderation (one to 14 units per week, with units defined as a half pint of beer or glass of wine), and eating five servings of fruits and vegetables, from 1993 to 1997, 20,000 men and women between the ages of 45 and 79, were surveyed and given a point for each of these healthy behaviors.
The study tracked deaths among the participants through 2006 and found that over that time frame, participants who adhered to none of the four healthy behaviors were four times more likely to have died than the participants who maintained healthier habits. Additionally, researchers calculated that those scoring zero had the same risk of dying as someone 14 years older who scored four on the questionnaire.
While the study did not focus on how individual factors affect health, the results suggest that making several small changes can have a large impact on overall health and longevity.
Making all four of these changes can be tough. It is important to remember that each of these changes will, by themselves, improve your health. If you’re doing even a couple of these things, you’re on the right track to living longer.
If you need help getting started on a fitness plan, eDiets can help you find activities you’ll enjoy as you lose weight.
“Doing all these things in combination will provide the best results,” explains Pam. “But for many of us, taking small steps and making that first step is the key – baby steps. By adhering to any of these behaviors, your health will benefit in the long run.”