Healthy diets containing low amounts of saturated fats and carbohydrates are associated with a lower risk of mortality in older adults, a new study has found.

Investigators followed more than 371,000 adults aged 50 to 71 years. Over an average follow-up of 23.5 years, 165,698 deaths occurred. Study participants who consumed the most healthy, low-fat diets relative to their peers had 18% fewer deaths from all causes, 16% fewer deaths from cardiovascular diseases and 18% fewer deaths from cancers, the researchers found.

The study characterized healthy, low-fat diets as those with a low intake of saturated fat, and high intakes of plant protein and high-quality carbohydrates.

What’s more, the researchers found that replacing 3% of total calorie intake from low-quality carbohydrate and saturated fat with other macronutrients subtypes (such as high-quality carbohydrates, plant protein, animal protein and unsaturated fat) was associated with a significantly lower total and cause-specific mortality.

Healthy low-carbohydrate diets also were associated with slightly lower death rates, the researchers reported. But these lower mortality risk benefits were not seen among those who consumed overall low-carbohydrate diets or unhealthy low-carbohydrate diets. These participants had significantly higher total, cardiovascular and cancer mortality rates.  

“Our results suggest that a healthy low-fat diet with minimal saturated fat intake would be an effective dietary strategy for healthy aging among middle-aged and older people,” the researchers concluded.

Full findings were published in the Journal of Internal Medicine.

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