Food and Nutrition


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Legumes are the Most Important Dietary Predictor of Longevity

"Legumes have for some time been connected with long-lived cultures...."

Many studies have shown that different peoples in various parts of the world have cuisines that enable them to live longer, such as in Mediterranean cuisines and in Japan. A recent study shows that certain foods are particularly protective against risk of death across cultures and ethnicities. The study, called Food Habits in Later Life, was conducted under guidance of the Union of Nutritional Sciences and the World Health Organization. It examined individual food groups—vegetables, legumes, fruits and nuts, cereals, dairy, meat, fish, alcohol, and monounsaturated/saturated fat ratios—as predictors of mortality among people aged 70 and over. The study was controlled for ethnicity, gender and smoking. Of all the food groups, legumes alone had consistent and statistically significant results.

Among the cultures studied—Japanese, Greeks, Anglo-Celtic Australians, and Swedes—the results showed that for every 20 grams increase in daily legumes intake there was an 8% reduction in the risk of death. That’s less than an ounce increase per day of legumes ranging across cuisines from soy, tofu and miso in Japan, to brown beans and peas in Sweden, to lentils, chickpeas and white beans in the Mediterranean. The authors of this study even made a comparison with Key’s classic Seven Countries Study in the 1960s. There were variations among the different food groups across the different cultures with one exception—legumes. Legumes have for some time been connected with long-lived cultures, and this study shows that no matter what your ethnic background or where you live, eat more legumes to live longer, especially as you age.

Darmadi-Blackberry I, Wahlqvist ML, Kouris-Blazos A, Steen B, Lukito W, Horie Y, et al. Legumes: the most important dietary predictor of survival in older people of different ethnicities. Asia Pacific J Clin Nutr 2004;13(2):217-220.


Summarized by the NDSU Extension Service.

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