From the Huffington Post, May 18, 2012
For those of you who use your stove for shoe storage, nota bene: all that wasted time with an inactive kitchen could be shortening your lifespan. In fact, a new study found that people who cook up to five times a week were 47 percent more likely to still be alive after 10 years.
“It has become clear that cooking is a healthy behavior,” said lead author Professor Mark Wahlqvist in a statement. “It deserves a place in life-long education, public health policy, urban planning and household economics.”
The research team, made up of Taiwanese and Australian researchers, published their work in Public Health Nutrition, a Cambridge University journal after looking at a group of 1,888 men and women over age 65 who lived in Taiwan. At the start of the study, they interviewed each participant about several lifestyle factors, including cooking habits, household circumstances, shopping habits, diet, education, transportation and smoking.
During the initial survey, researchers found that 43 percent of participants never cooked, while 17 percent cooked one to two times per week, 9 percent cooked three to five times in a week and 31 percent cooked five or more times a week.
After 10 years, they followed up to see how many of the participants had died. They then matched lifestyle answers to the 1,193 participants who remained alive. The researchers discovered that frequent cooking was associated with survival. Also associated? Grocery shopping, taking public transportation, not smoking, and being a woman. Frequent cooking — and survival — was more common among women and most profoundly among unmarried women, though also among women with families.
There were limitations to the study: women generally live longer than men and, for cultural reasons, women were more practiced at cooking than men. Additionally, those who remained healthy were more able to perform errands related to cooking, like shopping for food, walking and taking public transportation. The truly ailing wouldn’t be able to cook because of their health — not the other way around.
But even after researchers controlled for these other factors, they found an association between frequent home cooking and longevity. “The pathways to health that food provides are not limited to its nutrients or components, but extend to each step in the food chain, from its production, to purchase, preparation and eating, especially with others,” added Wahlqvist.