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Eating More Of This May Lower Risk Of Death By 10%, Study Suggests

Eliza Sullivan
Food Writer
By Eliza Sullivan
Food Writer
Eliza Sullivan is a food writer and SEO editor at mindbodygreen. She writes about food, recipes, and nutrition—among other things. She studied journalism at Boston University.
Image by Melanie Riccardi / Stocksy
October 14, 2021

It seems there is always new data on the way our diet affects our health, and occasionally a study goes as far as to say that eating certain foods may actually improve life expectancy—which is really quite amazing, when you think of it. Research recently published in the BMJ, a peer-reviewed journal, concluded that nuts, seeds, and plant oils were linked with a lower risk of death.

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Why these foods may help you live longer, according to the research.

The research considered data from 41 studies, conducted between the years of 1991 and 2021—all of which observed a link between alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and risk of death. In total, the combination of studies meant this research involved around 120,000 participants between 18 and 98 years old.

ALA is a type of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid found in plants like soybeans, nuts, and flaxseed—and it's believed to be the very reason these types of foods may contribute to longevity. After considering bias and other factors in the collection of the data, they found that eating plenty of foods with ALA may contribute to a 10% lower risk of death due to all causes—specifically an 8% lower risk of death due to cardiovascular disease and an 11% lower risk of death due to coronary heart disease.

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Before you go running out to buy tons of nuts and seeds...

Though risk of death was lower, especially due to those two defined causes, the researchers did note that higher ALA intake was also associated with a slightly higher risk of cancer. Specifically, they found that there were 63 extra cancer deaths in the groups with the highest compared to the lower levels of ALA intake.

They also point out that, though many studies were considered, they were observational studies, which means it's not possible to claim causality. So while there may be a link between higher ALA intake and lower risk of death, based on this data, researchers can't say for certain that eating more foods with ALA will promote longevity.

If living longer is your aim, there are some other things that longevity experts swear are key to a long life: Sergey Young has made it his personal mission to live to 200, and he shared his ultimate list of must-do's with us on the mindbodygreen podcast.

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Eliza Sullivan
Eliza Sullivan
Food Writer

Eliza Sullivan is an SEO Editor at mindbodygreen, where she writes about food, recipes, and nutrition—among other things. She received a B.S. in journalism and B.A. in english literature with honors from Boston University, and she has previously written for Boston Magazine, TheTaste.ie, and SUITCASE magazine.