Estimating impact of food choices on life expectancy: A modeling study

Interpreting and utilising the findings of nutritional research can be challenging to clinicians, policy makers, and even researchers. To make better decisions about diet, innovative methods that integrate best evidence are needed. Published in February 2022 authors from the Department of Global Public Health and Primary Care, University of Bergen, Norway developed a decision support model that predicts how dietary choices affect life expectancy.

Reasons for this study

  • Food is fundamental for health, and globally dietary risk factors are estimated to cause 11 million deaths and 255 million disability-adjusted life years annually.
  • The Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors study (GBD) provides summary measures of population health that are relevant when comparing health systems but does not estimate the impact of alterations in food group composition and respective health benefits.
  • The EAT–Lancet commission did present a planetary diet, but it gives limited information on the health impact of other diets, and few people are able to adhere to strict health maximization approaches.

What did the researchers do and find?

  • Our modeling methodology using meta-analyses, data from the Global Burden of Disease study and life table methodology showed that life expectancy (LE) gains for prolonged changes from typical Western to optimizing diets could translate into more than a decade for young adults.
  • The largest gains would be made by eating more legumes, whole grains and nuts, and less red and processed meat.
  • For older people, the gains would be smaller but substantial. Even the feasibility approach diet indicates increased LE by 7% or more for both sexes across age groups.

What do these findings mean?

  • The online Food4HealthyLife calculator ( enables the instant estimation of the effect on LE of a range of dietary changes.
  • Understanding the relative health potential of different food groups could enable people to make feasible and significant health gains.
  • The Food4HealthyLife calculator could be a useful tool for clinicians, policy makers, and laypeople to understand the health impact of dietary choices.

Read the full article (in English) here.

Data Sources, Policy & Policy Analysis, Research
Non-communicable diseases, alcohol, nutrition, obesity, cancer, smoking, physical activity

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