The Western diet really IS a killer: People who eat white bread, butter and red meat are most likely to die young
The typical Western diet, high in fat and sugar, really does lead to an early grave, new research suggests.
A study of more than 5,000 civil servants found those who ate the most fried and sweet food, processed and red meat, white bread and butter and cream doubled their risk of premature death or ill health in old age.
It adds to evidence that ‘Western style food’ is the reason why heart disease claims about 94,000 lives a year in the UK – more than any other illness.
The findings published in The American Journal of Medicine are based on a survey of British adults and suggest adherence to the diet increases the risk of premature death and disability later in life.
People who ate the most fried and sweet food, processed and red meat, white bread, butter and cream doubled their risk of premature death or ill health in old age
Lead researcher, Dr Tasnime Akbaraly, of the National Institute of Health and Medical Research in France, said: ‘The impact of diet on specific age-related diseases has been studied extensively, but few investigations have adopted a more holistic approach to determine the association of diet with overall health at older ages.‘
She examined whether diet, assessed in midlife, using dietary patterns and adherence to the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI), is associated with physical ageing 16 years later.
The AHEI is an index of diet quality, originally designed to provide dietary guidelines with the specific intention to combat major chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.
Dr Akbaraly added: ‘We showed that following specific dietary recommendations such as the one provided by the AHEI may be useful in reducing the risk of unhealthy ageing, while avoidance of the “Western-type foods” might actually improve the possibility of achieving older ages free of chronic diseases.’
The researchers analysed data from the British Whitehall II cohort study and found following the AHEI can double the odds of reversing metabolic syndrome, a range of disorders known to cause heart disease and mortality.
They followed 3,775 men and 1,575 women from 1985-2009 with a mean age of 51 years.
Using a combination of hospital data, results of screenings conducted every five years, and registry data, investigators identified death rates and chronic diseases among participants.
At the follow up stage, just four per cent had achieved ‘ideal ageing’ – classed as being free of chronic conditions and having high performance in physical, mental and mental agility tests.
About 12 per cent had suffered a non-fatal cardiovascular event such as a stroke or heart attack, while almost three per cent had died from cardiovascular disease.
About three quarters were categorised as going through ‘normal ageing’.
The researchers said participants who hadn’t really stuck to the AHEI increased their risk of death, either from heart disease or another cause.
Those who followed a ‘Western-type diet’ consisting of fried and sweet food, processed food and red meat, refined grains, and high-fat dairy products, lowered their chances for ideal ageing