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Check How Much You Can Increase Life Expectancy By Eating Healthier!

Natalie
Stein
February 24, 2022
Check How Much You Can Increase Life Expectancy By Eating Healthier! - Lark Health
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In this article:

  • What you eat affects life expectancy.
  • An online calculator lets you enter your age and what dietary changes you might make. Then you can see how many years of life, on average, someone would gain or lose with those changes.
  • The calculator is based on research out of Norway. Researchers used studies from the United States, Europe, and China to see the effects of different foods on life expectancy. A 20-year-old can increase expectancy by over 10 years. An 80-year-old can increase life expectancy by over 3 years with healthier food choices.
  • Moving from a "Typical Western" diet to an "Optimal Diet" has the most benefits. But a "Feasible Diet" - halfway between - also has benefits.
  • Lark can help you make small changes to shift towards a feasible or optimal diet. Lark is always available and can help you lose weight and improve health in a way that fits into your lifestyle. Long-lasting changes are key.

Eat better and live longer. That's what a new study says. And, the study says exactly how much each change to your diet can affect life expectancy. The study is in PLOS Medicine

Every change helps. The more healthy changes you make, the more your life expectancy increases. And do you want to know how much you can affect your own life expectancy by making healthier choices? There's an online calculator you can use!

Spoiler alert: every change you make can have a big impact!

New Research in Diet and Life Expectancy

Eating well improves health. But researchers in Norway wanted to know how much eating well can increase life expectancy. They looked at thousands of studies from the United States, Europe, and China. They called what people eat on average a "Typical Western" diet. That is a less-healthy eating pattern.

The study found that people can shift to an "Optimal" diet to increase life expectancy. A "Feasible" diet is halfway in between. It increases life expectancy by half as much as an "Optimal" diet. For some people, it is a more realistic goal than an "Optimal" diet.

Study Questions and Answers

These are some of the questions that the study addressed. 

1. How much can shifting to a healthy diet affect life expectancy?

A lot! A male who changes from a Typical Western diet at the age of 20 can increase life expectancy by over 13 years!

2. Can making small changes help, or do you need to make big changes to get benefits?

Small changes help. Shifting to a "Feasible" diet, which is halfway between "Typical Western" and "Optimal," can have more than half the benefit for life expectancy.

3. Can you affect life expectancy by changing just one type of food? Or do you have to shift your whole diet to have an impact?

Individual foods can affect life expectancy! For example, say a 35-year-old female used to eat 2 ounces of processed meat daily, but then eliminated it. Her life expectancy increases by 1.6 years.

4. Can this work at all ages?

It looks like it. An 80-year-old who shifts from a Typical Western to a Feasible diet adds 1.9 years to the life expectancy.

Using the Calculator

How many years could your life expectancy increase if you changed your diet? It depends on your age, gender, and which changes you make. 

Let's take a look at how choice might affect life expectancy. Say you're a 35-year-old female who follows a Typical Western diet, but plans to make a few shifts.

  • Add a serving of nuts each day.
  • Make nearly all grains whole instead of refined.
  • Avoid processed or cured meats. 

The calculator estimates an increase of 5.7 years of life expectancy!

How's that for motivation to choose a peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole-wheat bread instead of a bologna sandwich on white bread?!

Let's try another example. Say you're a 65-year-old male who follows a Typical Western diet, but who will make these changes.

  • Eat more vegetables.
  • Choose water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Eat fish instead of red meat.

You could gain 2.3 years of life expectancy!

(Of course, these are just averages, and they're based on research and modeling. They're not a guaranteed result for any individual!).

Here's What "Healthy Eating" Means

Do you want to shift your diet? Let's get to it! These are the foods that the calculator includes. For each group, you can see the daily amounts in a Typical Western, Feasible, and Optimal diet. 

Food Group Typical Western Diet Feasible Diet Optimal Diet Example in an “Optimal” Day
Whole Grains
2 oz (50 g)
5 oz (137.5 g)
7 oz (225 g)
2 slices of whole-grain bread, 1 cup of oatmeal, ¾ cup cooked whole-wheat pasta
Vegetables
3 servings (250 g)
4 servings (325 g)
5 servings (400 g)
Green salad, baby carrots, steamed vegetables
Fruit
2.5 servings (200 g)
3.5 servings (300 g)
5 servings (400 g)
Banana, orange, apple, berries, peach
Nuts or peanuts
0 oz (0 g)
0.5 oz (12.5 g)
1 oz (25 g)
Peanut butter
Legumes
0 oz (0 g)
½ cup (100 g)
1 cup (200 g)
Bean, pea or lentil soup
Fish
2 oz (50 g)
4 oz (125 g)
7 oz (200 g)
Egg
1 egg (50 g)
¾ egg (37.5 g)
½ egg (25 g)
½ hard-boiled egg
Milk/Dairy
11 oz (300 g)
9 oz (250 g)
7 oz (200 g)
1 container of yogurt
Refined Grains
6 oz (150 g)
3.5 oz (100 g)
2 oz (50 g)
2 slices of white bread or 1 cup of cooked rice
Red Meat
3.5 oz (100 g)
2 oz (50 g)
0 oz (0 g)
none
Processed Meat
2 oz (50 g)
1 oz (25 g)
0 oz (0 g)
none
White Meat
2.5 oz (75 g)
2.5 oz (62.5 g)
2 oz (50 g)
2 ounces of skinless chicken breast
Sugar-Sweetened Beverages
16 oz (500 g)
8 oz (250 g)
0 oz (0 g)
none
Added Plant Oils
2 tablespoons (25 g)
2 tablespoons (25 g)
2 tablespoons (25 g)
¼ cup of salad dressing


Losing weight
and eating well can have big returns. They can boost health, energy, and confidence. And they can be part of your daily routine. You can even eat your favorite foods and lose weight.

Lark makes weight loss and healthy eating simple. With Lark, weight loss and healthy living happen when you make small changes that fit into your lifestyle. Lark offers tips, tracking, instant feedback, and friendly suggestions. Over time, small healthy changes can become habits for long-term success. Your personal Lark coach is available 24/7 through your smartphone so you can get expert tips, track meals, physical activity, and weight loss. 

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