The scientists followed close to 1,000 men and women in England, who were born in March 1946, throughout their adulthood. Those who ate more fruits, vegetables and whole-grain cereals — and fewer highly processed foods — throughout adulthood did better on three tests of physical function in their early 60s than those with less healthy eating habits.
The study also found that those whose eating habits improved during adulthood did better on two of the tests, chair rise speed and standing balance time. The third test was timed up-and-go speeds.
“Improving the quality of your diet can have a beneficial effect on health, whatever your age,” said study author Sian Robinson, a professor of nutritional epidemiology at the University of Southampton.
“However, this study suggests that making good dietary choices throughout adulthood — by cutting down on highly processed foods and incorporating more fruit, vegetables and whole grains into your diet — can have a significant beneficial effect on strength and physical performance later in life, helping to ensure a much healthier old age,” Robinson said in a university news release.
The study was published recently in The Journals of Gerontology: Series A.
While the study didn’t prove cause and effect, Cyrus Cooper, director of the university’s Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, said, “The link between dietary patterns and frailty in older people will open the door to effective interventions against the age-related decline in musculoskeletal function, which is such a growing cause of disability in aging populations worldwide.”
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