The Food That’s Making Your Life Shorter

By , Category : Food and Nutrition

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Processed Meats and Life ExpectancyThere are a number of excuses people have for illness. Some may claim it’s genetic, others say it’s the fault of the food companies, and conspiracy theorists contend the government’s putting something in the water. But as you’re likely aware, what you eat can have a real impact on how long, and in what condition, you survive.

There are always new culprits named as killers. It’s been fat, then saturated fat. Next, trans fat came along. Now, and most accurately, it’s sugars and processed foods. Yes, diets high in saturated fats aren’t particularly healthy, but at the end of the day, if you’re eating lot of processed and packaged meats, you’re setting yourself up for a shorter life.

New research is showing that people who eat high amounts of red meat die up to two years sooner than people who don’t. Now, it should be noted that the biggest killer is in the form of processed red meats. Processed meats are preserved through smoking, curing, salting, and chemicals. Some of these chemicals, like sodium nitrate, could increase your chance of death. They have been linked to hardened arteries, heart disease, and diabetes. Examples of meats processed this way are:

  • Bacon
  • Hot dogs
  • Breakfast sausages
  • Lunchmeats
  • Cold cuts

Some people eat a lot of red meat. Researches noted that people who ate up to 10.5 ounces per day, which is quite a lot, lived two years less than people who avoided it. But people who ate as little as 3.5 ounces per day of processed meats had their survival cut by nine months. That’s less than two breakfast sausages and two slices of bacon, and slightly more than a quarter-pound burger (that’s had preservatives added).

The team followed more than 74,500 people and considered all lifestyle factors. They used a 96-item food frequency questionnaire asking about the types of meats the participants ate in the past year and did follow-ups for 15 years.

Processed meats are convenient and relatively inexpensive, but they are killers. There is no doubt they will create health problems and shorten your life, so it’s important to do your best to avoid them. In place of processed meats, opt for fresh, unprocessed lean options. Sirloin, extra lean ground beef, veal, and whatever else is available at your butcher’s counter are recommended.

In my opinion, we’ve really moved past the stage of “dying from natural causes.” In most cases, heart attack, stroke, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and many other illnesses are attributable to lifestyle decisions. One of the most influential areas in determining one’s fate comes from the decisions they make in the grocery store.

No ifs, ands, or buts about it: eating processed meat is highly risky, and it will shave years off your life. I’d almost liken regular consumption of processed meats to smoking—it’s guaranteed to hurt you and can cause all kinds of health complications.

The grocery store is filled with fresh meat options that have more nutrition and are free of the dangerous additives found in packaged meats, so choose wisely. Your life literally depends on it.

Sources for Today’s Article:
Barnes, Z., “The Food that can cut years off your life,” Fox News web site, October 6, 2014; http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/10/06/food-that-can-cut-years-off-your-life/.
Gallagher, J., “Processed meat ‘early death’ link,” BBC web site, March 7, 2013; http://www.bbc.com/news/health-21682779, last accessed October 9, 2014.
“Red meat linked to increased risk of type 2 diabetes,” Harvard School of Public Health web site, August 10, 2011; http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/red-meat-type-2-diabetes/, last accessed October 9, 2014.




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Dr. Victor Marchione, MD

About the Author, Browse Victor's Articles

Victor Marchione, MD received his Bachelor of Science Degree in 1973 and his Medical Degree from the University of Messina in 1981. He has been licensed and practicing medicine in New York and New Jersey for over 20 years. Dr. Marchione is a respected leader in the field of smoking cessation and pulmonary medicine. He has been featured on ABC News and World Report, CBS Evening News and the NBC Today Show and is the editor of the popular The... Read Full Bio »