In a large study conducted at Brigham and Women's Hospital, researchers found an association between women who maintain a healthy diet and a lower risk of developing impaired physical function as they age.
Little research has been done on how diet impacts physical function later in life. The researchers wanted to look at diet patterns to learn how our overall diet impacts our physical function and mobility as we get older.
They examined the association between the Alternative Healthy Eating Index, a measure of diet quality, with reports of impairment in physical function among 54,762 women involved in the Nurses' Health Study. Physical function was measured by a commonly used standard instrument every four years from 1992 to 2008 and diet was measured by food frequency questionnaires, which were administered approximately every four years beginning in 1980.
The data indicate that women who maintained a healthier diet were less likely to develop physical impairments compared to women whose diets were not as healthy. They also found a higher intake of vegetables and fruits, a lower intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, trans-fats, and sodium, and a moderate alcohol intake, were each significantly associated with reduced rates of physical impairment.
Oranges, apples, pears, lettuce, walnuts protective
Among individual foods, the strongest links were found for higher intakes of oranges, orange juice, apples and pears, romaine or leaf lettuce, and walnuts. That said, the researchers found specific foods generally had weaker associations than the overall score, which suggests that the overall quality of your diet is more important than individual foods.
Physical function is crucial as you age; it includes being able to get yourself dressed, walk around the block, and could impact your ability to live independently," said the lead study author.
Source: Journal of Nutrition, June 2016.
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