To help understand what a healthy diet is, it is sometimes useful to describe what an unhealthy diet is. We do not have to rely on speculation and guess work either, as nutrition research has provided plenty of information on how diet adversely affects health.
In the most recent study carried out by the Department of Nutrition and Food Science, University of Maryland and published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, it was found that a diet high in dairy fat and desserts lead to a 40% increased risk of death in people over the age of 70. Dairy can be a healthy source calcium and energy for younger people, but as we get older it becomes easy to rely too heavily on the high fat of dairy for our daily energy needs.
High-fat dairy products include ice cream, cheese, 2% milk, whole milk, yogurt. People who consume more dairy also tend to eat a less varied diet.
Also people who eat sweets and desserts such as doughnuts, cake, cookies, pudding, chocolate and candy suffer increased death rates. People who eat more desserts also tend to eat less fruit, fish and vegetables.
The most interesting part of the research was that people who eat more red meat and drink alcohol, in this study, tended to be healthier than people eating a high fat and high sugar (sweets and desserts) diet.
“The results of this study suggest that older adults who follow a dietary pattern consistent with current guidelines to consume relatively high amounts of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry and fish, may have a lower risk of mortality.
Because a substantial percentage of older adults in this study followed the ‘Healthy foods’ dietary pattern, adherence to such a diet appears a feasible and realistic recommendation for potentially improved survival and quality of life in the growing older adult population.”
This may simply be because the people who ate more meat were also eating more vegetables with their meals. Also a glass of wine may be a replacement for a sweet dessert.” – lead author Amy L. Anderson, Ph.D.
The report did not find the root cause of the increase rates of death in the high fat and high sugar eaters. The main problem could well be sugar, as it has already been shown to increase heart risk in women. The high fat eaters may just be not receiving enough good nutrition, i.e. they are more likely to be relatively malnourished and have a weakened immune system. The high sugar eaters may be suffering from the same problems, plus have the added problem of too much sugar in the diet.
“Dietary patterns and survival of older adults” by Amy L Anderson, Ph.D.; Tamara B Harris, M.D., M.S.; Frances A Tylavsky, Dr.P.H.; Sara E Perry, M.A., M.P.H.; Denise K Houston, Ph.D., R.D.; Trisha F Hue, M.P.H.; Elsa S Strotmeyer, Ph.D., M.P.H.; and Nadine R Sahyoun, Ph.D., R.D. It appears in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 111, Issue 1 (January 2011) published by Elsevier.