Posted Jan 9, 2008 – People with four healthy lifestyle behaviors – not smoking, physical activity, moderate alcohol consumption, and eating five servings of fruit or vegetables a day – live an average of 14 years longer than people with none of those behaviors, a new British study says.
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Researchers at the University of Cambridge and the Medical Research Council looked at 20,000 men and women, ages 45 to 79, who filled out a questionnaire about the four health behaviors.
The participants, none of whom had known cancer or heart or circulatory disease, filled out the questionnaire between 1993 and 1997 and were followed until 2006. For each of the four healthy lifestyle behaviors, a participant received one point. After they factored in age, the researchers found that participants with zero points were four times more likely to have died over an average period of 11 years than those with four points.
The study also found that participants with a score of zero had the same risk of dying as someone 14 years older with a score of four. This was independent of body-mass index (BMI) and social influence.
The study is part of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), conducted in 10 European countries. EPIC is the largest-ever study of diet and health, but the researchers say the findings have implications for all social and racial groups. However, the study did not take into consideration other factors that could influence longevity, such as stress and environment.