London: Elderly women who eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and remain active are more likely to live longer than those don't eat their greens and exercise, a new study has found.

The research, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, also found that those who had the most healthy diet and did fairly enough exercise were eight times more likely to live a further five years than their idle counterparts.

"A number of studies have measured the positive impact of exercise and healthy eating on life expectancy, but what makes this study unique is that we looked at these two factors together," lead researcher Dr Emily Nicklett from University of Michigan was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.

In the study, researchers from the University of Michigan and Johns Hopkins University looked at data from hundreds of women aged 70 to 79.

From their blood samples, the team measured the levels of carotenoids-beneficial plant pigments which the body turns into antioxidants, such as beta-carotene, to check fruit and veg intake. The more fruits and vegetables consumed, the higher the levels of carotenoids in the bloodstream.

The women's physical activity was measured through a questionnaire that asked the amount of time spent doing various levels of physical activity, which was then converted to the number of calories expended.

The women were then followed up to establish the links between healthy eating, exercise and survival rates.

In the five-year follow up, 11.5 per cent of the women had died. But serum carotenoid levels in the survivors were 12 per cent higher and physical exercise was twice as high.

Women in the most active group had a 71 per cent lower five-year death rate than the women in the least active group.

And women in the highest carotenoid group had a 46 per cent lower five-year death rate than the women in the lowest carotenoid group.

Dr Nicklett said: "Given the success in smoking cessation it is likely that maintenance of a healthy diet and high levels of physical activity will become the strongest predictors of health and longevity.

"Programmes and policies to promote longevity should include interventions to improve nutrition and physical activity in older adults."


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