London: A few simple changes to diet and lifestyle can protect you against a string of killer diseases and add years to your life, a landmark study has shown.
Following seven golden rules not only cut the risk of dying from cancer by 20 per cent, it also slashed risks of lung disease by half and heart attacks by 44 per cent, the study of nearly 380,000 people by scientists at Imperial College London found.
The researchers noted that those who stick closely to the rules, which also govern exercise and alcohol consumption, will cut their risk of dying from any of the major circulatory or respiratory diseases, including stroke and angina, by at least 34 per cent.
The rules were drawn up six years ago by the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research.
Now, by studying patients across nine European countries, the British scientists have shown that they help people live longer by reducing the risk of death from many other causes as well as cancer.
The seven rules are:
1. Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight.
2. Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day.
3. Limit consumption of energy-dense foods - those high in fat or added sugar and low in fibre - and avoid sugary drinks.
4. Eat a variety of vegetables, fruit, wholegrains and pulses such as beans. As well as five portions of fruit and veg a day, try to eat wholegrains with each meal.
5. Limit consumption of red meat such as beef, pork and lamb to 500g cooked weight a week and avoid processed meats such as ham, salami and bacon.
6. Limit alcoholic drinks to two for men and one for women a day.
7. It is best for mothers to breast feed exclusively for up to six months.
Lead researcher Dr Teresa Norat said: "This large European study is the first that shows there is a strong association between following the recommendations and a reduced risk of dying from cancer, circulatory diseases and respiratory diseases.
He added that further research is needed in other large populations to confirm these findings.
The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is the first to examine breastfeeding as part of a combination of lifestyle changes to see what effect it has on risk of dying.
It showed that women who breastfed for at least six months had a reduced risk of death from cancer (10 per cent) and circulatory disease (17 per cent).