Middle-aged people with healthy diets are fitter 2023


Research found that middle-aged adults who eat well are fitter. ESC’s European Journal of Preventive Cardiology published the study’s findings.

“This study provides some of the strongest and most rigorous data thus far to support the connection that better diets may lead to higher fitness,” stated study author Dr. Michael Mi of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston.

“The improvement in fitness we observed in participants with better diets was similar to the effect of taking 4,000 more steps each day.”

Cardiorespiratory fitness assesses the heart, lungs, blood vessels, and muscles’ ability to transport and use oxygen during exercise. One of the best predictors of health and lifetime.

Exercise improves cardiorespiratory fitness, but even people who exercise the same amount have different fitness levels, suggesting additional factors are involved. A balanced diet offers many health benefits, but its effect on fitness is uncertain.

ESC’s European Journal of Preventive Cardiology published the study’s findings.

This study examined whether community-dwellers with a healthy diet are fit. Framingham Heart Study participants number 2,380. 54% were female, and the average age was 54. A cycle ergometer maximal effort cardiopulmonary exercise test determined peak VO2. This test measures oxygen consumption during the most vigorous activities.

The Harvard semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire assessed intake of 126 dietary items during the last year from never or less than once per month to six or more servings per day.

The heart-healthy Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI; 0 to 110) and Mediterranean-style Diet Score (MDS; 0 to 25) were employed to measure diet quality. A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, legumes, seafood, healthy fats, and less red meat and alcohol had higher results.

Diet quality and fitness were examined after controlling for age, sex, total daily energy intake, body mass index, smoking status, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, diabetes, and routine physical activity. AHEI averaged 66.7 and MDS 12.4. Compared to the average score, a 13-point AHEI and 4.7-point MDS increase increased peak VO2 by 5.2% and 4.5%, respectively.3

“In middle-aged adults, healthy dietary patterns were strongly and favorably associated with fitness even after taking habitual activity levels into account,” stated Dr. Mi. The link was same in women and men and stronger in those under 54 than older persons.”

The researchers examined diet-fitness mechanisms. They evaluated how nutrition quality, fitness, and metabolites—substances created during digestion and released into the blood after exercise—relate. 201 metabolites (e.g. amino acids) were analyzed in blood samples from 1,154 research participants.

After controlling for the same parameters, 24 metabolites were related with poor diet and fitness or good diet and fitness. Dr. Mi added, “Our metabolite data suggest that eating healthily is associated with better metabolic health, which could be one possible way that it leads to improved fitness and ability to exercise.”

“This was an observational study and we cannot conclude that eating well causes better fitness, or exclude the possibility of a reverse relationship, i.e. that fit individuals choose to eat healthily.”

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