Walnuts Impact Gut Microbiome and Improve Health

Diets rich in nuts, such as walnuts, have been shown to play a role in heart health and in reducing colorectal cancer. According to a new study from the University of Illinois, the way walnuts impact the gut microbiome—the collection of trillions of microbes or bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract—may be behind some of those health benefits.

Walnuts are just one in a line foods that contain dietary fiber and have interested scientists for their impact on the microbiome and health. Dietary fiber acts as a food source for gut microbiota, helping the bacteria to do their jobs—breaking down complex foods, providing us nutrients, or helping us feel full, for example.

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes are important plant sources of dietary fiber. Eating a variety of these foods helps promote a diverse gut microbiota, which in turn helps to support health.

Findings from the study, published in The Journal of Nutrition, show that consuming walnuts not only impacted the gut microbiota and microbial derived secondary bile acids, but also reduced LDL-cholesterol levels in the adults participating in the study; good news for cardio, metabolic, and gastrointestinal health.

“We found that when you consume walnuts it increases microbes that produce butyrate, a beneficial metabolite for colonic health. So the interaction of walnuts with the microbiome is helping to produce some of those health effects,” says Hannah Holscher, assistant professor of food science and human nutrition at U of I, and lead author of the study. “It is about getting to the ‘black box’ that is all the microbes in our GI tract to see how they are interfacing with the food we eat and having downstream health effects.

“Some of those health effects are hypothesized to be related to the metabolites bacteria produce,” she adds.

For the controlled-feeding study, 18 healthy male and female adults consumed diets that either included 0 grams of walnuts or 42 grams—about a third cup or a palm-full of walnuts—for two, three-week periods. Fecal and blood samples were collected at the beginning and end of each period to assess secondary outcomes of the study, including effects of walnut consumption on fecal microbiota and bile acids and metabolic markers of health.

Walnut consumption resulted in higher relative abundance of three bacteria of interest: Faecalibacterium, Roseburia, and Clostridium.

“The microbes that increased in relative abundance in this walnut study are from one of the Clostridium clusters of microbes, and there’s increased interest in those because they have the ability to make butyrate,” Holscher says. “Unfortunately in this study we didn’t measure butyrate, so we can’t say that just because these microbes increased that butyrate did increase. We still need to answer that question.

“There is a lot of interest in Faecalibacterium because it has also been shown in animals to reduce inflammation. Animals with higher amounts also have better insulin sensitivity. There is also growing interest in Faecalibacterium as a potential probiotic bacteria, and so we are trying to follow up on foods that help support Faecalibacterium.”

The findings also show, with walnut consumption, a reduction in secondary bile acids compared to the control. “Secondary bile acids have been shown to be higher in individuals with higher rates of colorectal cancer,” Holscher explains. “Secondary bile acids can be damaging to cells within the GI tract, and microbes make those secondary bile acids. If we can reduce secondary bile acids in the gut, it may also help with human health.”

Previous research that prompted this microbial research showed that the amount of energy (calories) derived from walnuts after we eat them is less than previously thought.

“When you do calculations to determine how much energy we predicted we would get from eating walnuts, it didn’t line up with the energy that was absorbed,” Holscher says. “You’re really only absorbing around 80 percent of the energy from walnuts that labels say. That means that the microbes get access to that extra 20 percent of calories and the fats and fiber left in them, and so what happens then? Does it produce a positive health outcome, or a negative health outcome? Our study provides initial findings that suggest that the interactions of microbes with the undigested walnut components are producing positive outcomes.

“We need more research to look at additional microbial metabolites and how those are influencing health outcomes, instead of just characterizing the changes in the microbiome,” Holscher says.

Source: University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

Holistic Living

A lot of people think that the holistic approach to life is nothing more than woo-woo mumbo jumbo, others think that it is taking a spiritual approach to life and others, others like me, think that it is simply a better way of living on your own terms, being aware of your own actions and doing whatever works for you to live an optimum life.

If you believe that everything we eat, think, practice and believe has a huge impact on your life and the lives of others, it makes sense to like at your life holistically, taking care of your mind, body and soul so that you can live a truly beautiful, happy and healthy life.

Sound good? Here’s what you can do to start living holistically:

Eat a Clean Diet

If you want to take care of your body and your mind, then a diet that is low in toxins and junk food and high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats makes imminent sense. These kinds of foods will fuel your body and feed your brain so that you are able to function optimally.

Slow Down

We undoubtedly live in a fast-paced world, but is it really a coincidence that so many more people are suffering from fatigue, anxiety, stress, depression and a whole host of similar conditions? I doubt it! We all do so much so fast that we have very little time to just be. If you want to live a more holistic life, you need to change that. So, cross a few unnecessary things off your schedule and replace them with things you love like reading a good book, hiking somewhere beautiful or simply spending time with good friends and family.

Connect More

Connecting with other people who are also interested in living holistically – maybe at a yoga class or a local music festival, even in a Facebook group – is a great way to learn more about the experience of life and how to live optimally and make some very good friends.

As well as connecting to other like-minded people, forming connections with animals and the universe will make you feel less alone, more in the flow and happier than the average person who spends more time playing games on their phone than talking to people or enjoying the natural world.

Move Your Body

Moving your body is a basic way to feel more alive and to maintain a healthy body. Exercises like yoga and tai chi which engage both body and mind are best from a holistic point of view. However, any activity that gets you moving which you enjoy will lift your spirits and benefit your body.

Taking care of every part of your life as a human being is the only way to feel truly happy, healthy and at peace, So, do something about it, by living more holistically today – it’ll change your life.  How do you live your life? Any thoughts? What are your tips? Please share in the comments below. I really would love to know.

Until next time, shine amongst the stars!

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How Much Protein Should You Eat?

Smoothies, shakes, supplements: There’s no shortage of products that come with promises to boost your protein intake. But do you really need that extra protein?

“I think a lot of people feel pressured by all the marketing out there, making them feel like their diet is protein-deficient,” says Douglas Paddon-Jones, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition and metabolism at the University of Texas Medical Branch.

Before you start eating extra steak or mixing protein powder into your smoothies, it’s important to assess what your protein requirements actually are and the best ways to get the right amount.

How Much Protein Do You Need?

Protein is the building block for most of our cells; dietary protein helps us build muscle and maintain healthy bones. It also boosts energy and helps us feel full.

According to the Dietary Reference Intakes from the USDA, most people need about 0.4 grams of protein per pound of body weight. So someone who weighs 150 pounds would need about 60 grams of protein each day. (For a more individualized estimate of how much protein you need, you can enter your height, weight, and age into the USDA’s calculator.)

Considering that one 170g skinless, cooked chicken breast contains 54 grams of protein, achieving the recommended daily intake isn’t a high hurdle for most. Despite the crowded market for protein supplements and all the manufacturers touting the high protein content in their products, “most of us are already getting an adequate amount in our diet,” says Paddon-Jones.

Certain people, such as very strict vegans and those who lack access to healthy food in general, may have a harder time hitting those modest goals. (See “What Are the Best Protein Sources?” below for ideas on how to get more.)

Who Needs Extra Protein?

If you’re trying to build muscle mass or you’re a serious athlete, your daily protein needs can be up to double the average. Paddon-Jones cautions that this doesn’t really apply to someone who hits the gym a few times each week. “We’re talking about a small group of people who are working their bodies hard, every day,” he says.

Dieters also sometimes increase their protein intake in order to achieve a feeling of fullness without adding the empty calories of, say, refined carbohydrates. If you’re trying to lose weight, research suggests that aiming for 0.7 grams of daily protein for every pound you weigh might help.

After age 60, getting at least 0.6 grams per pound daily can help prevent age-related muscle loss, or sarcopenia, which increases the risk of disability.

If you have certain medical concerns—you’re recovering from broken bones or a severe burn, for example—your doctor may advise you to up your protein intake. The nutrient could help with regrowth and cell generation, and might speed the healing process.

What Are the Best Protein Sources?

Animal proteins are often touted as “complete proteins” because they contain all eight amino acids—which assist in healthy metabolism and body function—that your body doesn’t produce on its own. Plant-based protein sources lack some of these acids, but you can mix and match (e.g., combining brown rice and beans, or putting peanut butter on whole-grain bread) to make a complete protein.

Paddon-Jones says you shouldn’t spend too much time fretting that your protein sources are incomplete; it’s more important to eat a generally balanced diet. “If you’re getting your protein from spinach and beans, you’re getting all sorts of great nutrients that more than compensate for any lacking amino acids,” he says.

In general, shoot for a diet that includes a variety of protein sources, such as lean meat, seafood, eggs, yogurt, tofu, quinoa, nuts, and beans. These types of whole foods aren’t just good sources of protein; they’re also rich in vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial nutrients.

Federal dietary guidelines show that Americans—particularly men and teenage boys—get most of their protein from meat, poultry, and eggs. “It’s always smart to aim for a variety of nutrient sources in your diet,” says Maxine Siegel, R.D., who heads CR’s food-testing lab.

In general, avoid using protein supplements and shakes. Though protein-packed meal-replacement shakes can seem convenient, they’re often packed with unwanted sugars and other additives, and they generally lack the key nutrients you get from whole foods. And independent testing has shown that some protein products contain high amounts of arsenic, cadmium, and other dangerous heavy metals.

Can You Overdo It?

Research has shown that the body has a limited capacity to process large amounts of protein all at once. One study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that someone who ingests 90 grams of protein in a meal gets roughly the same benefits as someone who ingests 30 grams.

It’s better to space out your protein intake over the course of the day in order for your body to use it all effectively. Start with, say, yogurt or eggs in the morning, get some tuna for lunch, then move onto a lean meat at dinner. You can supplement throughout the day with smart protein snacks like hummus and veggies or peanut butter on crackers or sliced apples.

For most healthy adults, there isn’t a significant danger to getting more than the recommended amount of protein naturally in your diet.

“Unless you’re [genetically predisposed to] kidney issues such as advanced type 2 diabetes and kidney disease, there are few established health risks of ingesting too much protein,” says Jamie Baum, Ph.D., an associate professor of nutrition at the University of Arkansas.

Some research has shown potentially adverse effects of excess protein intake, such as straining the kidneys and the liver. But that’s generally only among people who are upping their intake with supplements. And if your protein is coming predominantly from animal sources, you could face corollary risks associated with high-meat diets, such as higher rates of coronary heart disease.

“As with so much else in diet and nutrition, the key to healthy protein intake is balance and moderation,” says Siegel.

Source: Consumer Reports

Crispy Chicken and Lettuce Wraps

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 1 small green apple, diced (unpeeled)
  • 1/4 cup diced red capsicum
  • 1/4 cup diced cucumber
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped red onion
  • 1 boneless skinless chicken breast (approximately 100 each), cooked and diced
  • 1/4 cup low fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 small head of lettuce (4-5 leaves)

Directions
In a bowl, combine all ingredients except for the lettuce. Chill for 1 hour. Place the chicken mixture inside each lettuce leaf, roll into cylinders and serve.

Papaya Chicken

Ingredients

2 Tbsp grapeseed oil
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp asafoetida
2 Tbsp grated garlic
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 green chili, finely chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp Spanish paprika
1 tsp salt
2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut in small cubes
1/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1 cup cubed ripe, juicy papaya

Method

  1. Place the oil, fenugreek seeds, and asafoetida in a non-stick pan over medium heat and cook for 10 seconds. Add the garlic, ginger. and green chili, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the onion, and saute for 4 minutes until caramelized.
  3. Add the whole cumin seeds, ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, cardamom, paprika, and salt, and cook for 10 seconds.
  4. Add the chicken and cook until it’s almost done, about 8 minutes.
  5. Stir in the yogurt and cook until the chicken is it fully done, another 2 minutes.
  6. Add the papaya chunks, and remove from the heat. Serve over rice, cauliflower rice if you want to make it super healthy,  or with naan or plain rotis.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Everyday Indian

Do You Shop With Your Gut in the Grocery Aisle?

National Survey of more than 2,000 Dietitians Reveals Movement Toward Clean, Natural and Simple with Surprising Predictions for Superfoods in 2018

In its sixth year, with a record-breaking 2,050 registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) responding, the Pollock Communications and Today’s Dietitian’s “What’s Trending in Nutrition” national survey once again exposes what RDNs predict consumers are thinking and eating. In a surprising switch, fermented foods – like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, tempeh, some pickles, kimchi and miso – ousted seeds as the No. 1 superfood for 2018, making it clear that consumers will be “going with their gut” in the coming year by seeking out foods that improve gut health and overall well-being.

“RDNs stay ahead of the trends because they are dedicated to listening and responding to what consumers are looking for when making food choices,” explains Mara Honicker, publisher of Today’s Dietitian. “Our readers stay current on what consumers are thinking as much as they do nutritional science.”

Top 10 Superfoods for 2018

What’s changed for next year is the rise of “fermented foods” to the top spot. Surprising, but true, RDNs predict fermented foods will be highly sought by consumers in 2018. While widely known as the process used for making wine or beer, fermentation is a natural, metabolic process that involves using sugar to create compounds like organic acids, alcohols and gases. Fermented foods may have powerful health benefits from boosting gut health to blunting inflammation. The rest of the rankings included:

  1. Fermented foods, like yogurt
  2. Avocado
  3. Seeds
  4. Nuts
  5. Green tea
  6. Ancient grains
  7. Kale
  8. Exotic fruits
  9. Coconut products
  10. Salmon

The Future is Here

In 2012, “What’s Trending in Nutrition”predicted that consumers would move toward “natural, less processed foods” (according to 72% of respondents). This national sample of RDNs forecasted that consumers were trending toward “simple ingredients” and a greater focus on “plants.” Move forward to today, and their projections have come to fruition as top diets for 2018. Coined, “clean eating” and “plant-based diets,” consumers are demanding foods and products that fit this way of life.

Diets Over Time

After “clean eating” and “plant-based diets,” first-timer, the “ketogenic diet” has made its way to the top as No. 3. This high-fat, generous-protein, barely-any-carb diet designed to produce ketone bodies for energy debuted with a high ranking. Interestingly, in 2013, RDNs felt that the trend in the “low carb diet” had declined. Then a year later, there was a rise in Paleo, Wheat Belly and Gluten-Free. Now, RDNs rank “Wheat Belly” as one of the diets on its way out and ketogenic has overtaken Paleo. Given the popularity of the high-fat ketogenic diet, it makes sense that the “low fat” diet was also ranked as a has-been.

“The movement toward clean eating reflects a change in how consumers view food,” notes Jenna A. Bell, PhD, RD, SVP of Pollock Communications. “Consumers are searching for nutrition information and equating diet with overall well-being.” As an example, Bell points out that the quick rise of fermented foods in the top 10 superfood list shows that consumers have expanded their definition of wellness to include benefits like gut health. “It also suggests that consumers are digging deeper for information about the food they eat and in this instance, finding out why yogurt, kefir or kimchi is so good for them!”

Fake News?

Over the years, the “What’s Trending in Nutrition” survey has captured the RDN perspective on where, how and from whom, consumers are getting their nutrition advice – good and bad. Since 2013, RDNs have acknowledged the power of social media, blogs, websites and celebs on nutrition decisions and the dissemination of misinformation. In 2014, celebrity doctors made their mark in the minds of consumers and RDNs ranked them as a growing provider of nutrition info. In the upcoming year, RDNs take aim and name Facebook as the No. 1 source of nutrition misinformation for consumers, followed by websites and blogs/vlogs.

Through the Years, We All Will Be Together

RDNs continue to recognize that consumers rank taste, cost, convenience and healthfulness as most important in the supermarket. And, the RDN messages remain consistent: MyPlate is the gold standard for helping consumers eat right (79% use it to educate) and it’s best to make small changes, focus on the overall eating pattern (not a single food or nutrient) and make gradual shifts over time. The RDNs top recommendations for 2018 are to limit highly processed foods, increase fiber intake, keep a food journal and choose non-caloric beverages such as unsweetened tea or coffee.

“The annual forecast from the ‘What’s Trending in Nutrition’ national survey shows how consumers are driving change and leading the evolution of diet and nutrition trends,” explains Louise Pollock, President and founder of Pollock Communications. “As they do each year, the unique perspective of RDNs provides media, retailers and food manufacturers a view into the minds of consumers that can help inform their business.”

Source: Pollock Communications

Intermittent Fasting

We are super excited to reveal that we have  incorporated a fasting protocol into our 4 week program at www.4weekfatflush.com as well as some new super easy recipes for the first few weeks to make the transition as easy as possible for the whole family.

I intermittent fast pretty much every single day, and find it a very natural approach, which is what a paleo (low carb, healthy fat or ketogenic) lifestyle promotes, as once you are fat adapted, you stop the hunger cravings for food, as you are supplying the body its key nutrients in the most natural way, which in turn makes this way of eating cheaper and quicker.

The whole notion of 3 small meals throughout the day and snacking in between (recommendation of the Dietitians Association of Australia) is not based on evolutionary science but created to help the multinational food industry stay in business by keeping the population craving carbs and not being able to maintain a healthy weight or to stay healthy.

These days I generally eat 2 good meals a day and sometimes just one depending on how I feel (I eat when I am hungry.)  The other thing to consider, is the more exercise you do, the more you generally want to eat. Which is why we provide a at home fitness plan, when your body adapts and you have the energy, then you can increase your activity do the activities/exercises that make you happy including some resistance exercises and running (see bottom of post for who intermittent fasting may not be suitable for and to always consult with your health professional prior.)

Here is a little information from the recipes/meal planning area of the program.

Your Week 1 Meal Plan

Our suggested meal plans have been designed to be easy and affordable for all, whilst also considering that many of us live in differing regions with differing accessibility.

You will have access to your meal plan as soon as you join to enable you to purchase the required ingredients at your local supermarket, butcher, health food shop or farmers market. Don’t be afraid to be adventurous in your cooking and experiment with your new way of cooking

Fasting

Fasting is the ultimate way to limit and help control the body’s insulin production. The latest scientific research suggests that fasting could play a part in the prevention of many conditions, especially obesity and type 2 diabetes. New research suggests that restricting the number of insulin-spiking carbohydrates and excess protein, by intermittent fasting, is one of the best ways we can live a healthy life. It’s only in the last 50 years that fasting has stopped being used as a healing modality in the western world, but it’s free and easy. All you need is a little bit of information to get going.

What fasting does is stop the body from needing to produce insulin for the period of the fast. By fasting intermittently, we are able to normalise our blood-sugar levels and lose weight. Fasting teaches our body to produce only the insulin it needs to function – something our bodies do naturally, unless the process is disrupted by too many starchy and sugary foods.

A low-carb lifestyle works in a similar way, offering an impressive 70 per cent of the insulin-lowering ability of fasting. Used in tandem, the two are very effective: a low-carb diet makes fasting easier. Because you’ve already turned on your fat-burning switch, fasting enables your body to get the maximum benefits from eating in this way. Several programs pairing fasting with a low-carb lifestyle have had success with helping people with metabolic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, manage their condition more effectively.

If you choose to fast, it can be either breakfast or dinner;

If you want to fast at breakfast, eat your evening meal before 6pm and delay your first meal of the next day until 10am, so you fast for a period of 16 hours overnight. This can be done daily as there are no negative health consequences to eating only during eight hours of the day. If you don’t think you can skip breakfast entirely, then try one of our bone broths or fat smoothies instead.

If you find that you get hungry in the morning, try fasting at dinner. Make yourself some breakfast, have a late lunch and then skip dinner.
If you are comfortable with intermittent fasting then adopt it for the whole 4 weeks of the program.

Of course, it’s best to work with your healthcare professional to find a way of fasting that’s right for you, especially if you take regular medication. Note that fasting is not recommended for babies, children, teenagers, elderly people, pregnant or breast feeding women, type 1 diabetics or those with hypoglycaemia.

To join the 4 Week Fat Flush go to www.4weekfatflush.com/the-program

 

 

 

Choosing the Right Type of Mindfulness Meditation

 

Many beginner meditators, myself included, start out with a mindful breathing meditation: one breath in, one breath out, the mind wanders, you bring it back.

Armed with an app guiding me through this meditation, I practiced dutifully for several months—but eventually I fell off the wagon. It just stopped feeling right for me.

I didn’t know there were other types of meditation to try. That’s why a new study published in the journal Mindfulness is so encouraging: It compares four different types of meditation, and finds that they each have their own unique benefits. Mindful breathing isn’t the only place to start—and it’s not the end of meditation, either.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute recruited more than 200 adults in Germany who hadn’t meditated before to participate in a nine-month mindfulness training. It taught four types of meditation:

  • Breathing meditation: A practice where you focus your attention on the sensations of breathing.
  • Body scan: A practice where you focus on each individual body part in turn, from head to toe.
  • Loving-Kindness meditation: A practice deigned to foster positive feelings of love and care, initially toward a close loved one and then extended to yourself, others, and eventually the whole world.
  • Observing-thought meditation: A practice that teaches you to notice as thoughts arise, label them—for instance, as positive or negative, focused on yourself or others—but avoid getting absorbed in them.

The program was split into three three-month modules, with breathing meditation and body scan taught together. Each module included a three-day retreat and two-hour weekly group sessions, plus five days a week of practice at home. Before and after every meditation session, participants filled out online questionnaires about their thoughts and feelings in the half hour before the meditation and during it—providing a snapshot of how the practice impacted their minds.

During every type of meditation, participants reported feeling more positive emotions, more energetic, more focused on the present, and less distracted by thoughts than they did before beginning—perhaps thanks to the attention training that’s common to all meditation. But that’s where the similarities ended.

During body scan, participants saw the biggest increases in how aware they were of their bodies (unsurprisingly) and the sharpest decline in the number of thoughts they were having, particularly negative thoughts and thoughts related to the past and future. Lovingkindness meditation led to the greatest boost in their feelings of warmth and positive thoughts about others. Meanwhile, the observing-thought meditation seemed to increase participants’ awareness of their thoughts the most.

Participants had been split into three groups, one of which learned only loving kindness meditation (my personal favorite) for three months. But doing this practice without a foundation of more basic meditation didn’t seem to be problematic. In fact, though they had slightly more negative thoughts during loving kindness meditation than the other groups (who had already learned mindful breathing and body scan), they saw an even bigger rise in their warm and positive feelings.

As the researchers point out, these findings offer insights to would-be meditators and mental health practitioners. If you’re tackling a specific issue—say, feeling disconnected from your body, in conflict with others, or plagued by rumination—then you can choose to try body scan, loving kindness, or observing-thought meditation (respectively). Previous research also suggests that the observing-thought meditation has an advantage in reducing our judgmental attitude toward others.

“The type of meditation matters,” explain postdoctoral researcher Bethany Kok and professor Tania Singer. “Each practice appears to create a distinct mental environment, the long-term consequences of which are only beginning to be explored.” In fact, this study is part of a larger investigation called the ReSource Project, which is also examining how these different meditations affect brain structure, stress, and social behavior.

But if you’re looking for broad benefits, any of these types of meditation could help you cultivate positivity, energy, and focus. In that case, whichever meditation you’re likely to stick with is probably the best choice.

Source: Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley

Healthy Habits

Maintaining five healthy habits—eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, keeping a healthy body weight, not drinking too much alcohol, and not smoking—during adulthood may add more than a decade to life expectancy, according to a new study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Researchers also found that U.S. women and men who maintained the healthiest lifestyles were 82% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and 65% less likely to die from cancer when compared with those with the least healthy lifestyles over the course of the roughly 30-year study period.

The study is the first comprehensive analysis of the impact of adopting low-risk lifestyle factors on life expectancy in the U.S. It was published online April 30, 2018 in Circulation.

Americans have a shorter average life expectancy—79.3 years—than almost all other high-income countries. The U.S. ranked 31st in the world for life expectancy in 2015. The new study aimed to quantify how much healthy lifestyle factors might be able to boost longevity in the U.S.

Harvard Chan researchers and colleagues looked at 34 years of data from 78,865 women and 27 years of data from 44,354 men participating in, respectively, the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. The researchers looked at how five low-risk lifestyle factors—not smoking, low body mass index (18.5-24.9 kg/m2), at least 30 minutes or more per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity, moderate alcohol intake (for example, up to about one 5-ounce glass of wine per day for women, or up to two glasses for men), and a healthy diet—might impact mortality.

For study participants who didn’t adopt any of the low-risk lifestyle factors, the researchers estimated that life expectancy at age 50 was 29 years for women and 25.5 years for men. But for those who adopted all five low-risk factors, life expectancy at age 50 was projected to be 43.1 years for women and 37.6 years for men. In other words, women who maintained all five healthy habits gained, on average, 14 years of life, and men who did so gained 12 years, compared with those who didn’t maintain healthy habits.

Compared with those who didn’t follow any of the healthy lifestyle habits, those who followed all five were 74% less likely to die during the study period. The researchers also found that there was a dose-response relationship between each individual healthy lifestyle behavior and a reduced risk of early death, and that the combination of all five healthy behaviors was linked with the most additional years of life.

“This study underscores the importance of following healthy lifestyle habits for improving longevity in the U.S. population,” said Frank Hu, chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard Chan School and senior author of the study. “However, adherence to healthy lifestyle habits is very low. Therefore, public policies should put more emphasis on creating healthy food, built, and social environments to support and promote healthy diet and lifestyles.”

Source: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health