‘Most Comprehensive’ Review of What We Eat Can Help Lower Risk of Death

Sept. 5, 2021

For more information, contact Ted Griggs, 225-288-8840, ted.griggs@pbrc.edu 

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana – The “most comprehensive” systematic review of evidence on dietary patterns and all-causes of death shows that your mother was right.  You should eat your vegetables.  And your legumes, nuts, whole grains, unsaturated vegetable oils, fish and lean meat or poultry.  

“The 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee looked at 153 studies involving around 6.5 million people in 28 countries in what we believe is the most comprehensive examination of dietary patterns and all causes of death,” said Dr. Steven Heymsfield, Professor and Director, Metabolism and Body Composition Laboratory at Pennington Biomedical Research Center.  “The findings were consistent no matter the study approach or geographic region.  Eating a healthy diet lowers a person’s risk of death from all causes, including diet-related chronic diseases such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and some cancers.”

Heymsfield served as the corresponding author of the paper, published in JAMA Network Open, and was a member of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. The Committee was appointed by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) to conduct an independent scientific review of a number of topics and questions related to diet and health, including on dietary patterns and all-cause mortality. The Committee’s scientific report was used by the Departments to develop the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 

Strong evidence showed healthy eating patterns consisted of vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, whole grains, unsaturated vegetable oils, fish and lean meat or poultry, with relatively low amounts of red and processed meat, high-fat dairy, and refined carbohydrates or sweets. Some of the healthy dietary patterns also included intake of alcoholic beverages in low to moderate amounts.

Pennington Biomedical Executive Director Dr. John Kirwan said the committee’s findings further support decades of evidence-based research. 

“Overwhelming evidence shows us that what we eat matters.  The things we eat and drink significantly affect our health and longevity.  More than half of all U.S. adults have one or more preventable chronic diseases,” he said.  “Many of these illnesses are related to poor diets and inadequate levels of physical activity.  All of us – no matter what our health status might be – can benefit from making our diets healthier by following these guidelines.”

Additional resources are available at:
JAMA Network Open
2020 Dietary Patterns Subcommittee Systematic Reviews
The Scientific Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee
Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-25 and Online Materials


About the Pennington Biomedical Research Center
The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the triggers of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia.  The Center architected the “Obesity, USA” awareness and advocacy campaign to help solve the obesity epidemic by 2040.  The Center conducts basic, clinical, and population research, and is affiliated with Louisiana State University.  The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes over 480 employees within a network of 40 clinics and research laboratories, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Its scientists and physician/scientists are supported by research trainees, lab technicians, nurses, dietitians, and other support personnel.  Pennington Biomedical is located in state-of-the-art research facilities on a 222-acre campus in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  For more information, see https://www.pbrc.edu.