A competing risks analysis of the Harvard Nurse’s Health Study compares the danger of smoking cigarettes to the danger of animal product consumption (cholesterol) and the benefits of plant foods (fiber) to the benefits of exercise.
What Women Should Eat to Live Longer,
The Harvard Nurses’s Health Study, involving more than 100,000 women, was started in 1976 and so as you can imagine is now the most definitive long-term study ever on older women’s health. Since the study started, thousands of participants died. And now, thanks to all that hard work, 35 years later they published the “risk factors for mortality, “ and because it was a co-called competing risks analysis it allows one to compare different risks to one another.
The number one single cause of death? Heart disease, and so no surprise that dietary cholesterol consumption was significant risk factor for death. The second leading cause was smoking-related cancer deaths. Comparing the two, consuming the amount of cholesterol found in just a single egg a day appears to cut a woman’s life short as much as smoking , 5 cigarettes a day, for 15 years.
The most protective behavior they found was fiber consumption. Eating just a cup of oatmeal’s worth of fiber a day appears to extend a woman's life as much as 4 hours of jogging a week, but of course there’s no reason you can’t do both.
The one specific food most tied to longevity was nuts. You appear to get 4 hours of weekly jogging benefit eating just two handfuls of nuts a week as well.
Taking a step back, though, it's worth noting that the intake of cholesterol, only found in animal foods, was associated with living a shorter life and the intake of fiber, only found in plant foods, was associated with living a longer life.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Serena
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Similar comparisons have been made between the risk of smoking and eating processed meat (Prevention Is Better Than Cured Meat) and cell phone use and processed meat--see Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer? and Hot Dogs & Leukemia. Though healthy eating may help mediate the devastating effects of smoking (see Smoking Versus Kale Juice, Preventing COPD With Diet, and Treating COPD With Diet.), if you do smoke, please stop. As a physician, I've just seen too many good people die horrible deaths from cigarettes. Here at NutritionFacts.org there are 38 other videos on nuts, 32 videos on exercise, 25 videos on fiber, 5 videos on oatmeal, and hundreds of videos on a thousand other topics.
For more context, check out my associated blog posts: Stool Size and Breast Cancer Risk, Eating To Extend Our Lifespan, The True Shelf Life of Cooking Oils, Cholesterol Lowering in a Nut Shell, Nuts Don’t Cause Expected Weight Gain, Top 10 Most Popular Videos of the Year, Boosting Gut Flora Without Probiotics, and Treadmill Desks: Stand Up For Health