Each of us is surrounded by junk food. We know that they are unhealthy, but few people are aware of their real effect on our body. One of the bad foods is hot dogs, for example. Most people know that eating hot dogs is not healthy, but so far no study has been found to estimate how bad their consumption affects your life expectancy. A new study at the University of Michigan looked at the impact of food on life expectancy. The foods that are most often found in the diet of Americans were evaluated.

The effect of food on the length of your life

The study, published in the journal Nature Food, evaluated more than 5,800 foods. Their nutritional burden and impact on the environment were examined. The study had very interesting results. For example, she found that consuming a hot dog will shorten your life by up to 36 minutes, mainly due to the content of highly processed foods that are unhealthy for the body.

On the contrary, some foods can prolong your life, for example, a portion of nuts will prolong your life by up to 26 minutes. Research has shown that beef and processed meat have an adverse effect on the body. Replacing 10% of your daily caloric intake with these foods with fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes or seafood will reduce your carbon footprint by up to a third and give you an extra 48 minutes to live.

“Generally, dietary recommendations lack specific and actionable direction to motivate people to change their behavior, and rarely do dietary recommendations address environmental impacts,” says Katerina Stylianou, who did the research as a doctoral candidate and postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at U-M’s School of Public Health.

Health Nutritional Index

The work used a new nutritional index HENI (Health Nutritional Index), which was developed in collaboration with nutritionist Victor Fulgoni III of Nutrition Impact LLC. This index calculates the beneficial or harmful health burden of food in minutes of a healthy life. Various dietary risk factors, GBD (Global Burden of Disease) data are used in the calculation and combined with nutritional profiles of foods. Foods with a positive score add minutes, foods with a negative score take minutes away.

Credit: University of Michigan


Impact of food on the environment

Food was also evaluated according to the impact on the environment, according to the colors of the traffic lights in three color zones: green, yellow and red. Research has suggested that people focus on foods that are healthy and have the least impact on our environment.

Credit: University of Michigan

“The urgency of dietary changes to improve human health and the environment is clear,” says Olivier Jolliet, senior author of the paper and professor of environmental health sciences at U-M’s School of Public Health. “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.”

Detailed study results can be viewed here in the journal Nature Food.