A new study, published in the journal of PLOS medicine, has demonstrated that the risk of dying from heart disease, stroke, cancer or other diseases among low income individuals can be lowered by sticking to a healthy diet. The research participants consisted of 84,735 adults, aged 40-79, recruited from 2002- 2009. Two-thirds of the participants were African-American.
Of the 77,572 participants, 6,906 participants died which included 2,244 from cardiovascular disease, 1,794 from cancer and 2,550 from other diseases. After controlling for factors such as age, weight, exercise, smoking and prior history of some chronic diseases, the investigators found that participants who ate the healthiest diet had an approximately 20 percent lower risk of death from those diseases than those with the least healthy diet. The research participants were followed on an average for 6 years.
Participants completed frequent food frequency questionnaires which analyzed the types and amounts of foods in their usual diet. The investigators used the federal government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), and the Healthy Eating Index (HEI) to assess the healthfulness of the participants’ diets. The DGA emphasizes a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seafood, legumes and nuts; moderate in low- or non-fat dairy and alcohol; and low in red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains
“This is the first study to our knowledge reporting this association in a low-income population that largely comprises African-Americans,” said Wei Zheng, M.D., Ph.D., MPH, director of the Vanderbilt Epidemiology Center and chief of the Division of Epidemiology. “These findings present direct evidence that dietary modification may influence disease prevention in this underserved population.”
Danxia Yu, Jennifer Sonderman, Maciej S. Buchowski, Joseph K. McLaughlin, Xiao-Ou Shu, Mark Steinwandel, Lisa B. Signorello, Xianglan Zhang, Margaret K. Hargreaves, William J. Blot, Wei Zheng. Healthy Eating and Risks of Total and Cause-Specific Death among Low-Income Populations of African-Americans and Other Adults in the Southeastern United States: A Prospective Cohort Study. PLOS Medicine, 2015; 12 (5): e1001830 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001830