From Ron Hoffman, MD
First the good news: According to a Harvard study released this month, a variety of healthy diet patterns dramatically reduced the risk of dying from a multitude of diseases. The study was huge—comprising over 75,000 women and 44,000 men followed for 35 years as part of the Framingham Study.
Of course, there were robust double-digit reductions in the risk of dying from cardiovascular disorders. There was even a 7-14% decrease in cancer deaths. The surprise was there was up to a 46% lower risk of respiratory disease-related death, a testament to the anti-inflammatory benefits of a healthy diet. Puzzlingly, there was no significant protection against stroke deaths. But there was even a modest reduction in deaths due to neurodegenerative disease—the bulk of which are attributed to Alzheimer’s.
That’s a “DUH”. My entire professional career has been predicated on the notion that diet helps you delay your reckoning with the Grim Reaper, and now here’s vindication. It had to be “proven”, 2500 years after Hippocrates declared: “If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.”
But here’s the disappointment: The researchers studied four diet patterns—The Mediterranean Diet, the vegetarian diet, and a couple of versions of the FDA’s Healthy Eating Index. But all were variations on the theme of low saturated fat intake comporting with continued stigmatization of full-fat dairy and red meat. The authors conclude:
“These healthy dietary patterns typically include high amounts of plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes, and lower amounts of refined grains, added sugars, sodium, and red and processed meats.”
This notwithstanding the latest studies that explode the myth that a healthy diet should exclude meat, dairy and eggs, especially when teamed with plentiful minimally-processed plant foods. And none of the diets studied were low-carb; while de-emphasizing refined carbohydrates, all four included ample potions of grains and starchy vegetables.