Following a Western Style Diet May Lead to Greater Risk of Premature Death

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Following a Western Style Diet May Lead to Greater Risk of Premature Death

New findings reported in The American Journal of Medicine
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Tuesday, April 16, 2013 - 1:00pm

CONTENT: Press Release

Philadelphia, Pa., April 15, 2013 /3BL Media/ - Data from a new study of British adults suggest that adherence to a “Western-style” diet (fried and sweet food, processed and red meat, refined grains, and high-fat dairy products) reduces a person’s likelihood of achieving older ages in good health and with higher functionality. Study results appear in the May issue of The American Journal of Medicine.

“The impact of diet on specific age-related diseases has been studied extensively, but few investigations have adopted a more holistic approach to determine the association of diet with overall health at older ages,” says lead investigator Tasnime Akbaraly, PhD, Inserm, Montpellier, France. “We examined whether diet, assessed in midlife, using dietary patterns and adherence to the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI), is associated with aging phenotypes, identified after a mean 16-year follow-up.”

The AHEI is a validated index of diet quality, originally designed to provide dietary guidelines with the specific intention to combat major chronic conditions such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

Investigators analyzed findings from the British Whitehall II cohort study, which suggest that following the AHEI can double the odds of reversing metabolic syndrome, a condition known to be a strong predictor of heart disease and mortality. The research team sought to identify dietary factors that can not only prevent premature death, but also promote ideal aging.

Researchers followed 3,775 men and 1,575 women from 1985-2009 with a mean age of 51 years from the Whitehall II study. Using a combination of hospital data, results of screenings conducted every five years, and registry data, investigators identified mortality and chronic diseases among participants. The outcomes at follow-up stage, classified into 5 categories were:

1.     Ideal aging, defined as free of chronic conditions and high performance in physical, mental, and cognitive functioning tests – 4.0 percent

2.     Nonfatal cardiovascular event – 12.7 percent

3.     Cardiovascular death – 2.8 percent

4.     Noncardiovascular death – 7.3 percent

5.     Normal aging – 73.2 percent

The study determined that participants with low adherence to the AHEI increased their risk of cardiovascular and noncardiovascular death. Those who followed a “Western-type diet” consisting of fried and sweet food, processed food and red meat, refined grains, and high-fat dairy products lowered their chances for ideal aging.

“We showed that following specific dietary recommendations such as the one provided by the AHEI may be useful in reducing the risk of unhealthy aging, while avoidance of the ‘Western-type foods’ might actually improve the possibility of achieving older ages free of chronic diseases and remaining highly functional,” notes Dr. Akbaraly. “A better understanding of the distinction between specific health behaviors that offer protection against diseases and those that move individuals towards ideal aging may facilitate improvements in public health prevention packages.”


Notes for Editors
"Does Overall Diet in Midlife Predict Future Aging Phenotypes? A Cohort Study,” by Tasnime Akbaraly, PhD; Séverine Sabia, PhD; Gareth Hagger-Johnson, PhD; Adam G. Tabak, MD; Martin J. Shipley, MSc; Markus Jokela, PhD; Eric J. Brunner, PhD; Mark Hamer, PhD; G. David Batty, PhD; Archana Singh-Manoux, PhD; Mika Kivimaki, PhD (DOI: It appears in The American Journal of Medicine, Volume 126, Issue 5 (May 2013) published by Elsevier.

Full text of the article is available to credentialed journalists upon request. Contact Jane Grochowski at +1 406 542 8397 or to obtain copies. To schedule an interview with the authors please contact or

About The American Journal of Medicine
The American Journal of Medicine (, known as the “Green Journal,” is one of the oldest and most prestigious general internal medicine journals published in the United States. It has an Impact Factor of 5.43, which ranks it 13 out of 153 General and Internal Medicine titles according to the 2011 Journal Citation Reports® published by Thomson Reuters.

AJM, the official journal of The Association of Professors of Medicine, a group comprised of chairs of departments of internal medicine at 125-plus U.S. medical schools, publishes peer-reviewed, original scientific studies that have direct clinical significance. The information contained in this article in The American Journal of Medicine is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment, and the Journal recommends consultation with your physician or healthcare professional. AJM is published by Elsevier.

About Elsevier
Elsevier is a world-leading provider of scientific, technical and medical information products and services. The company works in partnership with the global science and health communities to publish more than 2,000 journals, including The Lancet and Cell, and close to 20,000 book titles, including major reference works from Mosby and Saunders. Elsevier’s online solutions include ScienceDirect, Scopus, Reaxys, ClinicalKey and Mosby’s Suite, which enhance the productivity of science and health professionals, and the SciVal suite and MEDai’s Pinpoint Review, which help research and health care institutions deliver better outcomes more cost-effectively.

A global business headquartered in Amsterdam, Elsevier employs 7,000 people worldwide. The company is part of Reed Elsevier Group PLC, a world leading provider of professional information solutions in the Science, Medical, Legal and Risk and Business sectors, which is jointly owned by Reed Elsevier PLC and Reed Elsevier NV. The ticker symbols are REN (Euronext Amsterdam), REL (London Stock Exchange), RUK and ENL (New York Stock Exchange).

Jane Grochowski
+1 406 542 8397

Keywords: Research & Policy | Cognitive functioning | Dietary patterns | Diet quality indices | Elsevier | Nutritional epidemiology | Overall diet | Physical functioning | Western-style diet | aging | mortality

CONTENT: Press Release