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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


So Many Health Behaviors, So Little Time

By Eric Ciappio

Sometimes the number of recommendations to help you lead a healthy lifestyle can seem overwhelming. Do this -  but not too much! – then make sure you absolutely don’t do that. So if it can be so overwhelming, why have so many recommendations? The answer is because they’re all important is the answer. Health behaviors maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, not smoking, and getting enough vitamins, minerals, and fiber in your diet are all pillars to maintaining your health as you age.  

A new study out of Denmark demonstrates this nicely. Petersen et al conducted a prospective cohort trial that sought to determine the combined impact of following 5 specific health behaviors on mortality: smoking, alcohol intake, physical activity, waist circumference, and diet. This was a fairly substantial cohort, as subjects were followed for a median of 14 years and over 50,000 participants. The researchers found that adhering to just one of these behaviors was associated with a significant reduction in all cause, cardiovascular, and cancer-related mortality. But they also found that the more health recommendations people followed, the lower the risk of mortality (all-cause, cancer, and cardiovascular). In other words, following just one health recommendation was associated with a lower risk of mortality, but following more recommendations was associated with a significantly lower risk of mortality in this cohort.

This paper serves to remind us that while yes, paying attention to individual health behaviors – like maintaining a healthy weight or following a proper diet – is essential  for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, the more you do for your health the better you are. Sometimes, we focus so much on individual health behaviors (as a for instance, I can be quite vitamin/mineral focused), we can’t see the forest for the trees and remember that each of these behaviors works in concert. So remember, achieving an adequate intake of micronutrients is just one piece of the puzzle: remember that this is just one aspect of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.


Main Citation:

Petersen KE, Johnsen NF, Olsen A, et al. The combined impact of adherence to five lifestyle factors on all-cause, cancer, and cardiovascular mortality: a prospective cohort study among Danish men and women. Br J Nutr 2015; epub ahead of print.