The CDC published a paper this week in the American Journal of Public Health suggesting that eating healthy, exercising regularly, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol intake can add more than a decade to our lives. And the criteria were not very strict. One could meet the “regular exercise” definition by exercising just 3 times a week, and even “never smoked” allowed smoking up to 100 cigarettes. Having a “healthy diet” just meant meeting the outdated and wishy-washy USDA food pyramid guidelines. Still, though, despite the lax definitions, fewer than 5% of Americans achieved all four minimal healthy behaviors. In my video-of-the-day today I detail just how SAD the Standard American Diet is.
Previous studies looking at the impact of healthy lifestyles on extending one’s lifespan used different dietary criteria. The ARC study, for example, in their paper “Turning Back the Clock,” just rewarded fruit and vegetable intake (indeed, last week another study was published showing that vegetable consumption may reduce telomere erosion). The Healthy Aging (HALE) study likewise gave points for plant foods but also penalized for meat or dairy, while EPIC measured the levels of vitamin C in people’s blood, a decent proxy for healthy eating since it’s a nutrient found almost exclusively in plants. Today’s video-of-the-day details an elegant healthy eating index based on phytonutrient density. Find out what most people score, and how to turn your own diet into a “perfect 10.”
-Michael Greger, M.D.