A study described online in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society on May 15, 2012 confirms what all of us ought to know by now: that a diet containing healthy amounts of fruit and vegetables combined with regular exercise really does improve life expectancy.
The current study analyzed data obtained from 713 subjects aged 70 to 79 enrolled in the Women's Health and Aging Studies, which was designed to evaluate the causes of physical disability in older community-dwelling women. Physical activity levels and total serum carotenoids, a marker of vegetable and fruit intake, were assessed upon enrollment. Over the five year follow-up period, 82 women died.
While 21 percent of the women were moderately active and 26 percent were categorized as the most active group, over half of the participants reported engaging in no exercise at all. Survivors at the end of the follow-up period had serum carotenoid levels that were 12 percent higher than those who died and double the physical activity levels. Those whose carotenoid levels were among the top one-third of participants experienced approximately half the risk of dying compared to those whose levels were among the lowest third.
"A number of studies have measured the positive impact of exercise and healthy eating on life expectancy, but what makes this study unique is that we looked at these two factors together," commented lead author, Dr Emily J. Nicklett, of the University of Michigan's School of Social Work.
"Given the success in smoking cessation, it is likely that maintenance of a healthy diet and high levels of physical activity will become the strongest predictors of health and longevity," she remarked. "Programs and policies to promote longevity should include interventions to improve nutrition and physical activity in older adults."
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†This supplement should be taken in conjunction with a healthy diet and regular exercise program. Results may vary.