Adherence to recommended diets reduces risk of chronic disease, 32-year study finds

Adherence to recommended diets reduces risk of chronic disease, 32-year study finds

Spearman’s baseline correlations between cumulative mean energy-adjusted diets and food groups in pooled data from three cohorts (n=205,852 participants) Spearman’s correlation coefficients are displayed and highlighted in colour. Food groups are ranked according to the HRs of their associations with major chronic disease. The associations of food groups (by comparing the 90th to the 10th percentile) with major chronic diseases (Chr), major CVD, type 2 diabetes (T2D) or total cancer (CA) are indicated to the left of the figure. We reported unadjusted P values ​​based on two-sided statistical tests. Significant associations (P < 0.05) are highlighted in color according to HR magnitude. Credit: natural medicine (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41591-023-02235-5

Researchers at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, have good news for anyone who sticks to a healthy diet: Good food choices are associated with a lower risk of developing chronic disease.

In an in-depth review of several recommended diets, the study, “Optimal Dietary Patterns for Chronic Disease Prevention,” published in the journal natural medicinefound that complying with one is linked to better health outcomes.

To find the influence of recommended diets on health outcomes, researchers analyzed 32 years of data from 205,852 participants aged 25 to 75 when data collection began. The cohorts included 162,667 women from the Nurses’ Health Study and Nurses’ Health Study II and 43,185 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.

Participants regularly reported details about their lifestyle, medical history and dietary intake, with a median follow-up of 26 years per participant. There were 44,975 major chronic disease events observed, 12,962 major cardiovascular diseases, 18,615 diabetes cases and 17,909 total cancers.

While the individuals in the study did not explicitly adhere to the recommended diets, the study ranked the reported diets by levels of adherence on a weighted system. It compared health outcomes against levels of adherence to several dietary pattern groups: Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010, Alternate Mediterranean Diet, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, Diabetes Risk Reduction Diet, Healthful Plant-Based Diet Index , reversed Empirical Dietary Index for hyperinsulinemia, reversed Empirical Dietary Inflammation Model or World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research diet.

Participants were then ranked by comparison between the upper 90th percentile and the lower 10th percentile in terms of adherence. Overall, the study found that regardless of which diet an individual adheres to the most, being near the top of one correlates with lower disease risk. So, for example, an individual may rank in the top 90% of the Healthy Plant-Based Diet Index, but fall below 90% adherence in others due to coffee consumption or wine.

People who met guidelines designed to reduce the risk of inflammation, high blood sugar or diabetes were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Certain food groups were linked to poorer health outcomes. Diets that frequently included processed meats, energy drinks, red meat, french fries, and eggs were positively associated with major chronic diseases.

Consuming larger amounts of coffee, whole grains, wine and desserts had a lower risk of associated major chronic diseases. However, it should be noted that these were drawn from dietary pattern groups with many associated dietary intake strategies. Unfortunately, there was no coffee, whole grain, wine, and dessert diet.

More information:
Peilu Wang et al, Optimal Diets for Chronic Disease Prevention, natural medicine (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41591-023-02235-5

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