A hot dog is a classic fairground treat, but would you be as likely to enjoy one if you knew it could shorten your life?
A new study by researchers at the University of Michigan has suggested that you may lose 36 minutes of healthy life after eating one hot dog, while other foods can actually ‘add’ time to your life.
Studying 5,800 commonly-eaten foods, they also found that chicken wings will subtract 3.3 minutes of your life, while – perhaps surprisingly – a peanut butter and jam sandwich could increase your lifespan by over half an hour.
Salted peanuts add 26 minutes and baked salmon gains you 13.5 minutes.
The paper in the journal Nature Food specifically looked at ‘healthy life expectancy’ – the length of time a person has a good quality of life and is disease free. Basically, you won’t drop dead after a hot dog or live forever on PB&Js, but it acts as an illustration to show how food can affect your long-term wellbeing.
Researchers also looked at the life cycle of the foods and how they impact the environment, making suggestions to switch to all-round healthier (for ourselves and the environment) diets.
In fact, they concluded that switching 10% of your caloric intake from processed meat to a mix of fruits, legumes, nuts, select seafoods and vegetables could give you 48 minutes of healthy life extra per day and reduce the carbon footprint of your food by a third.
Study leader, Olivier Jolliet of the University of Michigan, said of the findings: ‘The urgency of dietary changes to improve human health and the environment is clear
‘Our findings demonstrate that small targeted substitutions offer a feasible and powerful strategy to achieve significant health and environmental benefits — without requiring dramatic dietary shifts.’
How different foods affect your healthy lifespan
- Peanut butter and jam sandwich: +33.1 minutes
- Baked salmon: +13.5 minutes
- Banana: +13.5 minutes
- Tomatoes: +3.8 minutes
- Avocado: +2.8 minutes
- French fries: +1.5 minutes
- Cheddar: -1.4 minutes
- Bacon: -6.5 minutes
- Pizza: -7.8 minutes
- Double cheeseburger: -8.8 minutes
- Soft drink: -12.4 minutes
- Hot dog: -36.3 minutes
Using the Global Burden of Disease study, academics assessed each food’s nutritional value based on 15 risk factors and disease burden estimates.
Other factors like the water used in food production and whether harmful or polluting methods were used to make the items were also considered.
They then gave each food a rating on a traffic light system, finding that ‘green’ foods included grains, nuts, legumes, veg, and fruit. On the red list were processed meats, beef, pork and lamb.
Cola fared well as green for environmental reasons, but on the red list for health.
Authors did highlight, though, that there would be foods that are healthy to eat but bad for the environment and vice versa.
‘Previous studies have often reduced their findings to a plant vs. animal-based foods discussion,’ noted paper author Dr Katerina Stylianou.
‘Although we find that plant-based foods generally perform better, there are considerable variations within both plant-based and animal-based foods.’
A balanced diet is always going to be best, and the fact that 37-year-old hot dog eating champion Joey Chestnut is still alive is a testament to the fact you can counteract the ill-effects of occasional ‘unhealthy’ foods.
Have as many ‘green’ foods as you can – and apparently plenty of peanuts – but don’t forget to mix it up and fuel your body the best way you see fit.
Credit: Original article published here.