How to live longer: The snack to eat in ‘midlife’ that increases odds of ‘healthy ageing’

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The decisions you make in life have a domino effect: they determine your overall life expectancy. This is because lifestyle factors influence your risk of a range of chronic diseases. Diet provides one of the strongest illustrations of this effect, with poor decisions raising your risk of heart disease – one of the gravest threats to longevity.

Research also suggests the dietary decisions you make at different points in your life can impact your odds of reaching old age.

That’s the key finding of a study published in the journal Hindawi.

“Nut consumption may reduce age-related diseases and lead to better health and well-being in ageing,” wrote the study’s researchers.

As they pointed out, many conditions of ageing develop over decades, and thus earlier lifestyle factors may particularly influence later health.

Nut consumption in midlife appears to have a knock-on effect, the researchers noted.

From 1998 to 2002, the researchers administered food frequency questionnaires to assess nut consumption (peanuts, walnuts, and other nuts and peanut butter) in women in the Nurses’ Health Study in their 50s/early 60s.

The Nurses’ Health Study and Nurses’ Health Study II are among the largest investigations into the risk factors for major chronic diseases in women.

Those who survived beyond 65 years with no chronic diseases, no reported memory impairment, no physical disabilities, and intact mental health were considered “healthy agers”.

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The researchers controlled for sociodemographic, behavioural, dietary, and other potential confounding factors that could influence the results.

Of 33,931 participants at midlife, 16 percent became “healthy agers”.

After age adjustment, “we observed a significant association between total nut consumption at midlife and higher odds of healthy ageing, with strongest associations observed excluding peanut butter”, they wrote.

For nut types, the researchers found “statistically significantly” higher odds of healthy ageing across peanuts, walnuts, and other nuts after age adjustment.

After factoring in all confounders, only walnut consumption remained associated with healthy ageing, they added.

“Women consuming nuts at midlife have a greater likelihood of overall health and well-being at older ages,” the researchers concluded.

“Nut consumption may represent a simple intervention to explore and promote healthy ageing.”

Other important dietary tips

Nuts can be enjoyed as part of a Mediterranean-style diet, which has been shown to provide heart-healthy benefits.

A Mediterranean diet incorporates the traditional healthy living habits of people from countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including France, Greece, Italy and Spain.

The Mediterranean diet varies by country and region, so it has a range of definitions.

But in general, it’s high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil.

It usually includes a low intake of meat and dairy foods.

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