Changing your diet could add up to 13 years of your life, study says

“Changing what you eat could add up to 13 years to your life, according to a newly published study, especially if you start when you are young.

The study created a model of what might happen to a man or woman’s longevity if they replaced a “typical Western diet” focused on red meat and processed foods with an “optimized diet” focused on eating less red and processed meat and more fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts…”

“To model the future impact of a person’s change of diet, researchers from Norway used existing meta-analyses and data from the Global Burden of Disease study, a database that tracks 286 causes of death, 369 diseases and injuries, and 87 risk factors in 204 countries and territories around the world.

The largest gains in longevity were found from eating more legumes, which include beans, peas and lentils; whole grains, which are the entire seed of a plant; and nuts such as walnuts, almonds, pecans and pistachios, the study found.

It may sound simple to add more plants and grains to your diet, but statistics show that Americans struggle to do so. A new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found few Americans eat close to their daily recommendations of fruits and vegetables.

The CDC study found that only 12% of adults consume 1½ to 2 cups of fruit each day, which is the amount recommended by the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Only 10% of Americans eat the recommended 2 to 3 cups of vegetables each day, including legumes.

About 50% of grain consumption should be whole grains, yet over 95% of Americans fail to meet that goal, according to the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans, instead eating processed grains, which have been milled to remove the grain, bran and many nutrients, including fiber.

Over 50% of Americans fail to eat the 5 grams (about a teaspoon) of recommended nuts and seeds each day, the guidelines said.”


Citation: Fadnes LT, Økland J-M, Haaland ØA, Johansson KA (2022) Estimating impact of food choices on life expectancy: A modeling study. PLoS Med 19(2): e1003889.

Photo by Alesia Kozik on

Published by greengrass50

My name is Christine McCullum-Gomez, PhD, RDN. I am a registered dietitian nutritionist with expertise in environmental nutrition, food and nutrition policy, food and nutrition security, food justice, chronic disease prevention, regenerative & organic agriculture, and sustainable healthy dietary patterns. Currently, I serve on the Editorial Review Board and as a Column Editor for the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition. I live in Bogota, Colombia with my husband, two teenagers (boy-girl twins), and our dog Honey. My website is: You can follow me on Instagram at:

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