The research, led by scientists from Harvard University in the US, aimed to find a link between diet and premature death.
According to the study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, Harvard professor and chair of the Department of Nutrition, Dr. Frank Hu said his findings on the health effects of the dietary guidelines for Americans are the most comprehensive yet.
The team analyzed the four most common diets in the United States and followed 75,000 women and more than 44,000 men who participated over 36 years.
Here are Harvard University’s four favorite healthy eating plans.
Named the top diet for the sixth year in a row by U.S. News & World Report, the Mediterranean diet recommends consuming whole grains, fish or chicken, vegetables, and antioxidant-rich olive oil.
The Mediterranean diet is derived from the traditional diets of 21 Mediterranean countries, including Italy, Greece, Croatia, Turkey and Monaco, where fresh vegetables, fruits, fish, nuts and olives are abundant.
According to previous research, the Mediterranean diet is known to reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions. The risk of death was also reduced by 18% in those following this diet.
The healthy plant-based diet is similar to the Mediterranean diet in that it focuses on eating more plants but does not include any animal products, including cheese. For the Harvard study, the researchers also included alcohol in this category, as well as “unhealthy” versions of plant-based foods such as breaded and fried vegetables.
Hu explained to News that “the plant-based diet doesn’t even include relatively healthy options, such as fish or some dairy products,” while being vegan reduces the risk of death by 14%.
Created by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, these dietary recommendations encourage plant-based products, as well as lean animal proteins and dairy products, while banning red and processed meats, added sugars, unhealthy fats and alcohol.
This diet also had a 19% lower risk of premature death.
The Alternative Healthy Eating Index, developed for this study by Harvard University researchers, recommends including fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, plant proteins, fish and healthy fats in your diet.
“We explicitly included nuts, seeds, whole grains, reduced consumption of red and processed meats, and sugar-sweetened beverages,” Hu said. “We allow moderate alcohol consumption,” he said.
This diet also reduced the risk of premature death by 20%.