Healthy diet can prolong life, study finds

Healthy eating really can help people live longer, new research has shown.

A study comparing the diets of 2,500 older Americans found that "high fat" individuals were 40 per cent more likely to die over ten years than those who preferred "healthy foods".

The researchers defined a "healthy foods" diet as one which contained more low-fat dairy products, fruit, whole grains, poultry, fish and vegetables.

It was also characterised by a lower consumption of meat, fried foods, sweets, high-calorie drinks and added fat.

Scientists divided the food preferences of participants, aged between 70 and 79, into six different dietary "clusters".

These were classified as "healthy foods", "high-fat dairy products", "meat, fried foods and alcohol", "breakfast cereal", "refined grains," and "sweets and desserts".

The "high fat dairy products" category had higher intakes of foods such as ice cream, cheese, whole milk and yoghurt, and lower consumption of poultry, low-fat dairy products, rice and pasta.

A 37 per cent higher risk of dying was associated with the "sweets and desserts" cluster, and a 21 per cent increased risk with the "meat, fried foods and alcohol" cluster.