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'Western' Diet Not the Way to Age Well

British study says fried foods and red meat lead to premature aging, illness

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, April 17 (HealthDay News) -- A new British study provides further evidence that eating a so-called "Western" diet may not be good for you in the long run.

People who eat this kind of diet -- which includes fried and sweet foods, processed and red meat, refined grains and high-fat dairy products -- are at increased risk for premature death. And those who do make it to old age are less likely to be in good health when they get there, the researchers said.

The study included nearly 3,800 men and 1,600 women in Britain, with an average age of 51, who were followed from 1985 to 2009. By the end of that time, 73 percent of the participants had experienced normal aging and 4 percent had undergone ideal aging, which is defined as free of chronic conditions with high scores on tests of physical and mental abilities.

During the follow-up period, 13 percent of the participants had a nonfatal cardiovascular event, 3 percent died from heart-related causes and 7 percent died from other causes, according to the research, which was published in the May issue of The American Journal of Medicine.

Those who ate a Western diet were less likely to have ideal aging, lead investigator Tasnime Akbaraly of INSERM, a biomedical and public health research institution in Montpelier, France, said in a journal news release.

"We showed that following specific dietary recommendations ... may be useful in reducing the risk of unhealthy aging, while avoidance of the Western-type foods might actually improve the possibility of achieving older ages free of chronic diseases and remaining highly functional," Akbaraly said in a journal news release.

"A better understanding of the distinction between specific health behaviors that offer protection against diseases and those that move individuals toward ideal aging may facilitate improvements in public health prevention packages," Akbaraly added.

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