Can These Foods Make You Live Longer?

foods live longer - nuts berries chocolate

By  Dr. K.J. McLaughlin

Guest Writer for Wake Up World

We all have been told that eating the right foods can allow us to live a healthier life and reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases. But can certain foods actually make us potentially live longer? Can this be correct?

Research published in the  Journal of Nutrition  sheds some light on this subject. Researchers studied 807 adults over 65 years of age and followed them for 12 years. The interesting aspect of this study is that the researchers did not find any benefits when just looking at dietary intake of polyphenols – however, there was a strong association between a reduced risk of mortality and urinary excretion of polyphenols – a 30% reduced risk of mortality!

(Urinary excretion is actually a much better indication than dietary intake, as people  may misremember how much and what they’re actually eating).

Foods high in polyphenols include nuts, berries, grapes, deep-colored vegetables or fruits, soy,  dark chocolate, coffee and tea, and red wine.

Can polyphenols help us live longer?

During the 12 year study, 274 people died (out of 807).  The researchers discovered that the participants who had the highest amounts of urinary excreted polyphenols at the beginning of the study had a lower mortality rate compared to participants who had the lowest amounts of urinary excreted polyphenols. In this study, there were no significant associations found between dietary intakes of polyphenols and mortality.

Polyphenols found in foods are composed of a few different chemicals like phytoestrogens found in soy; catechins found in tea or coffee; resveratrol found in wine skins; and anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins found in fruits and vegetables. These healthy foods can help you live longer.

These chemicals have many unique biochemical functions which explain why they might help us live longer. They can decrease inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, lower blood pressure, lowercholesterol and improve blood clotting.

These chemicals are also potent antioxidants capable of fighting free radicals which can damage our cells. The intake of these foods has been associated with a decreased risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, stroke, dementia, cancer, and peripheral vascular disease.

This is a great study to evaluate the relationship between food and its ability to help us live longer because it measured the urinary excretion rates of polyphenols and not just relied upon intakes from a food frequency questionnaire. The methodology of this study was very sound indeed and proves that people who are older and want to extend their lives can still do so by making dietary and lifestyle changes, and incorporating these healthy foods in their lives.

This would include the daily consumption of healthy foods which contain high amounts of polyphenols. Some great examples would include blueberries, blackberries, hazelnuts, red cabbage, olives, soybeans, green tea, coffee, chocolate, cherries, grapes, spinach and red wine.


  • Weir, S.,“Eat These and You May Live Longer, New Study Says,”Yahoo! website, October 11, 2013;, last accessed October 16, 2013.
  • Zamora-Ros, R., etal.,“High Concentrations of a Urinary Biomarker of Polyphenol Intake Are Associated with Decreased Mortality in Older Adults,”J Nutr.September 2013; 143(9): 1,445-50.

Previous articles by Dr. McLaughlin:

About the author:

 has degrees in nutrition, physical education, and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist with an interest in anti-ageing medicine. He’s also a chiropractor with 27 years of clinical experience.  He has a diverse professional background in clinical management, teaching, health promotion, and health coaching, and brings a unique passion to his work.  He has also spent time studying health promotion and the effect that health education has on health outcomes.

Dr. McLaughlin lives and practices the principles of fitness, wellness, and nutrition. He goes to the gym regularly and consumes a healthy diet.

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