If you want to live longer, be healthier, and enjoy life fuller, every doctor agrees you need to avoid a greasy, high-fat "Western-style" diet.

Nothing hammers home this fact like death counts: a new study that looks at how diet affected the aging of a group of British residents found that the Western style diet led people to age poorly and die earlier. 

"The impact of diet on specific age-related diseases has been studied extensively, but few investigations have adopted a more holistic approach to determine the association of diet with overall health at older ages," said Tasnime Akbaraly, lead author and researcher at the department of epidemiology and public health at the University College London, reported Science Daily.

"We examined whether diet, assessed in midlife, using dietary patterns and adherence to the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI), is associated with aging phenotypes, identified after a mean 16-year follow-up."

Over the course of 16 years, 5,350 men and women with a mean age of 51 years were followed.Every five years, researchers compiled data including their eating habits, hospital records, and mortality rates. They categorized the results into five groups:

  1. Ideal aging (4 percent): people were free of chronic conditions and performed well physically, mentally and in cognitive tests
  2. Nonfatal cardiovascular event (12.7 percent)
  3. Cardiovascular death (2.8 percent)
  4. Noncardiovascular death (7.3 percent)
  5. Normal aging (73.2 percent)

Those who didn't observe the AHEI had a higher risk of cardiovascular or noncardiovascular-related deaths, while those who followed the Western-Style diet of highly fried or sweet foods, processed food and grains, red meat, and dairy products high in fat decreased their chances of aging ideally.

The newly inducted United States Department of Agriculture's MyPlate changed the face of the 1992 food guide pyramid that long taught families what makes up a healthy diet. According to Harvard Medical School researchers, the pyramid was never an accurate depiction and promoted the business interests of industries.

The new primary food group symbol calls for less portions, making half your plat consist of fruits and vegetables, switch the milk to fat-free or low-fat, comparing sodium in all foods and drinking water instead of sugary drinks.

"We showed that following specific dietary recommendations such as the one provided by the AHEI may be useful in reducing the risk of unhealthy aging, while avoidance of the 'Western-type foods' might actually improve the possibility of achieving older ages free of chronic diseases and remaining highly functional," Akbaraly said.

"A better understanding of the distinction between specific health behaviors that offer protection against diseases and those that move individuals towards ideal aging may facilitate improvements in public health prevention packages."

The findings will appear in the May edition of The American Journal of Medicine