Healthy Diet Keeps Men Pain-Free As They Age
Study findings are similar to the results of studies conducted about women and healthy eating patterns.
At this point, you know maintaining a healthy daily diet positively affects almost every aspect of your life. However, did you know eating healthier can actually help you remain pain-free as you age like fine wine? Your eating patterns could play a major role in how or if you’ll by plagued with physical impairments as you age, as uncovered in a recent study by Harvard-affiliated researchers. Could the key to a long and mobile life be as simple as making healthier food choices after all?
The new study conducted by investigators from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital examines the role of a healthy diet on physical impairment as men age. The study found that a healthy diet can have a large influence on maintaining physical function, lowering the likelihood of physical impairment as men age by approximately 25 percent. These findings are published in The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging.
“Diet can have specific effects on our health and can also affect our well-being and physical independence as we get older,” says Francine Grodstein, senior author of the study. “What excites me about our findings is the notion that we have some influence over our physical independence as we get older. Even if people can’t completely change their diet, there are some relatively simple dietary changes people can make that may influence their ability to maintain physical function, such as eating more vegetables and nuts.”
Grodstein and her team examined data from 12,658 men from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. They tracked subjects from 2008 to 2012, evaluating certain measurables over time. These measurables included the men’s ability to perform activities like bathing/dressing themselves, walking one block, walking several blocks; walking more than one mile, bending/kneeling, climbing one flight of stairs, climbing several flights of stairs, lifting groceries, as well as moderate and vigorous activities. Additionally, the men filled out a food frequency questionnaire with responses ranging from “never or less than once per month” to “six or more times per day.”
Then, using criteria from the Alternate Healthy Eating Index-2010 to assess the quality of the men’s diets, the team assigned each individual a score. The higher the score, the better the quality of the man’s diet. These criteria included six food categories for which higher intake was better (vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes, etc.), one category for which moderate intake was better (alcohol) and four categories for which lower intake was better (red meats, sodium, etc.).
Grodstein’s team found higher individual diet scores were strongly associated with decreased chances of physical impairment. This includes a 25 percent lower likelihood of developing impaired physical function with age. An overall healthy diet pattern was more strongly associated with better physical function than any individual component or specific food. However, the team noticed a greater intake of vegetables and nuts and a lower intake of red/processed meats, as well as sugar-sweetened beverages, each lowered the risk of physical impairment slightly.
These results largely align with findings from similar studies of women in the Nurses’ Health Study. Like many similar studies, it relies on self-reporting and answers to questionnaires which aren’t always the most reliable methods of collecting information. However, since this study examines overall healthy eating patterns, minor discrepancies are unlikely to have largely impacted the findings.
The biggest takeaway? Developing healthy eating patterns now can help you live a longer, independent, pain-free life later on.
Where should you start when it comes to healthy eating? Right here with our delicious and nutritious pecan butters.