Hot Dogs Shorten Your Life?!

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Last week at my annual visit, my cardiologist asked if I’d seen the study that for every hot dog eaten, life is shortened by 30 minutes…


Wait, what?

Not that I eat a lot of hot dogs. Not that anyone with high cholesterol eats a lot of hot dogs. But seriously, what? There’s a MEDICAL STUDY that shows hot dogs lead to earlier death?

It turns out that there WAS a study done. A real one. Which was then written about with the kind of headline known as ‘click bait.’ Which works, obviously, as my doctor mentioned it. So…

Intrigued, I did a little digging. Turns out, the University of Michigan study looked at the effect of food choices both on human life expectance AND the environment. Unhealthy foods like processed meat (high in saturated fat and sodium) shorten life—and take a toll on the environment. In contrast, healthy, ‘lo-co’ foods are produced with a lower carbon footprint and help people live longer. The Univertiy of Michigan School of Public Health article, “Small Changes in Diet Could Help You Live Healthier, More Sustainably,” explains:

“Eating a hot dog could cost you 36 minutes of healthy life, while choosing to eat a serving of nuts instead could help you gain 26 minutes of extra healthy life.”

One of the lead researchers on the study, Olivier Jolliet, said that, “5,800 foods were evaluated and then ranked based on their nutritional disease burden as well as their impact on the environment. Hot dogs were considered the most unhealthy.”

This study offers more than ‘general advice’ to eat healthier. One of the study authors, Katerina Stylianou, notes:

“Generally, dietary recommendations lack specific and actionable direction to motivate people to change their behavior, and rarely do dietary recommendations address environmental impacts.”

Specifically, the study suggests:

“Decreasing foods with the most negative health and environmental impacts including high processed meat, beef, shrimp, followed by pork, lamb and greenhouse-grown vegetables.

Increasing the most nutritionally beneficial foods, including field-grown fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and low-environmental impact seafood.”

And offers this incentive for eating more heart-healthy foods:

“The study found that substituting 10% of daily caloric intake from beef and processed meats for a mix of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and select seafood could reduce your dietary carbon footprint by one-third and allow people to gain 48 minutes of healthy life per day.”

Just a small (10% !!) shift in what you eat could make a huge difference in your health!

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