Healthy eating and health go hand-in-hand according to the latest study. In fact, eating healthy may matter more than the number on the scale. The body really does know if you’re eating healthy food or junk food.

With more and more people living with obesity, the need to understand this complex issue becomes more pressing. High body mass index (BMI) was associated with 4 million global deaths in 2015. More than two thirds of them were attributed to heart disease.
Yet for many of us, weight loss has proven notoriously hard. Factors outside our control, from genetics and reliance on certain medications, to time and money restraints, can make it even tougher.

But perhaps we’re focusing too much on the wrong thing. A new study suggests that if you eat healthier food types, some of the health risks associated with having increased body weight can still be reduced.


New Study on Healthy Eating and Health

A new study demonstrates that healthy eating and health are tied together.
An analysis of data from 79,003 Swedish adults found that people who mostly stick to a Mediterranean-like diet – one rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish and olive oil – had better mortality outcomes regardless of their weight.

• A team of Swedish and US researchers used data collected over 21 years involving answers to 350 questions, with at least 96 on food, volunteered by male and female participants across two programs.

• This research was published in PLOS Medicine.

• Those who deviated from a Mediterranean diet, even when their weight was classified as ‘normal’, had higher rates of mortality.

• The authors concluded that “These results indicate that adherence to healthy diets such as a Mediterranean-like diet may be a more appropriate focus than avoidance of obesity for the prevention of overall mortality.”

However, there is still one mortality factor worse for people living with obesity: cardiovascular disease. This might be due to shared genetic factors between higher weight and heart disease, or perhaps a more strict following of a healthy diet is required to compensate for obesity risk factors.

Other Studies on Health and the Mediterranean Diet

The new findings do add to a growing body of evidence on the benefits of a Mediterranean-like diet. This diet has been linked to good outcomes for brain and mental health, among other things.

• A study from the 1990s found that switching to a Mediterranean diet after a heart attack halved all causes of mortality after four years. People in the study that stuck with a Mediterranean-like diet were also more likely to be higher educated, live with others, and do more exercise as well.

• A 2018 study indicated that focusing on types of food rather than portions can be helpful for weight loss. Nutritional scientist Faris Zuraikat of Penn State University concluded that “Choosing healthy, lower-calorie-dense foods was more effective and more sustainable than just trying to resist large portions of higher calorie options.”

The researchers of the new study caution that extra weight does still carry health risks. But focusing on healthy food choices could prove far more beneficial than shaming ourselves over what we eat, or how heavy we are.

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