Can a healthy diet help you live longer?

Researchers rated the diets of nearly 120,000 people using four scoring systems. For example, the Alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI) adds points for vegetables, whole fruit, whole grains, nuts, beans, and omega-3 and polyunsaturated fats and subtracts points for red and processed meats, trans fat, sugar-sweetened drinks, fruit juice, and salt.

Over roughly 30 years, those with the highest AHEI scores were 20 percent less likely to die of any cause, 17 percent less likely to die of heart disease, and 16 percent less likely to die of cancer than those with the lowest scores. (The study took age, smoking, exercise, weight, family history of illness, and other factors into account.)

What to do

Eat a healthy diet. This study can’t prove that you’ll live longer. Something else about healthy eaters may explain their lower risk. But it fits with clinical trials in which healthy diets lower blood pressure and “bad” cholesterol.

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