Healthy Diet Translates Into Longer Life Interview with:

Mercedes Sotos Prieto PhD Research Fellow Department of Nutrition Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health 

Dr. Sotos-Prieto

Mercedes Sotos Prieto PhD
Research Fellow
Department of Nutrition
Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Previous research have found that adherence to the 2010 Alternate Heathy Eating Index, the Mediterranean Diet pattern, and DASH pattern is associated with health benefits, but none of those studies have examined dynamic changes in diet quality over time and subsequent risk of mortality.

This is the first study to demonstrate that improvement in these three diet scores over time is associated with reduced risk of total and cardiovascular mortality. In contrast, worsening diet quality over 12-years was associated with 6%-12% increased mortality.

In addition, not only improvement in diet quality but maintaining a high adherence to any of the three dietary patterns over 12 years was significantly associated with 9%-14% lower total mortality. What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: A main take home message is that it is never too late to improve diet quality for reducing mortality risk and improving longevity as most participants in our study were 60 years or older. Similar findings were observed in both men and women.

Our results underscore the concept that modest improvements in diet quality over time could meaningfully influence mortality risk, and conversely, worsening diet quality may increase the risk.

In addition, our study supports a focus on overall healthy eating patterns, rather than on individual nutrients What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: The findings have important implications for dietary and policy guidance and can inform about behavioral strategies and education programs to sustain a healthy diet quality over time among middel-aged and older men and women that are essential for improving longevity.

Over the years, the concept of dietary patterns has been adopted by dietary guidelines and recommendations, which have put greater emphasis on overall diet quality, less on individual foods or nutrients. Current evidence indicates that healthy dietary patterns share most of common characteristics, including higher intakes of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes and lower intakes of red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages and highly refined grains. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: Overall, our findings support the recommendations of the 2015-2020 dietary guidelines which recommend several healthy eating patterns. It is not necessary to conform to a single dietary plan to achieve a healthy eating pattern. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Association of Changes in Diet Quality with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality

Mercedes Sotos-Prieto, Ph.D., Shilpa N. Bhupathiraju, Ph.D., Josiemer Mattei, Ph.D., M.P.H., Teresa T. Fung, Sc.D., Yanping Li, Ph.D., An Pan, Ph.D., Walter C. Willett, M.D., Dr.P.H., Eric B. Rimm, Sc.D., and Frank B. Hu, M.D., Ph.D.

N Engl J Med 2017; 377:143-153
July 13, 2017DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1613502

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Last Updated on July 13, 2017 by Marie Benz MD FAAD