In case you need more reasons to feel guilty about wolfing down a hot dog, this news just came in: Every wiener you’ve ever eaten has shaved years off your life. About 27 minutes per dog to be exact, or roughly 30 TikToks. And that 27 minutes per hot dog assumes you didn’t add any condiments. The extra salt and fat on most dogs typically bring you 36 minutes closer to death.
These metrics were developed by researchers at the University of Michigan.
Their new study, published in the journal Nature Food, measured how much time 5,853 different U.S. foods either added or subtracted from the average lifespan. The authors now suggest it’s possible to make up for time lost eating poorly by doing just the opposite.
“For example, 0.45 minutes are lost per gram of processed meat, or 0.1 minutes are gained per gram of fruit,” said Olivier Jolliet, professor of environmental health sciences at the university and senior author of the new paper.
“Is it the ultimate metric that will tell you exactly what to eat tomorrow and entirely determine your life expectancy? No,” Jolliet said. “It is a useful metric that can help you make more informed choices and makes it simpler to identify and make adequate small changes in our diet.”
Fruits and vegetables add years to your life
The University of Michigan researchers developed their metrics based on the Global Burden of Disease study, which measures morbidity associated with a person’s food choices.
Nuts, legumes, seafood, fruits, and non-starchy vegetables all add years to one’s life. And replacing just 10% of the calories you get from beef and processed meat with those healthier foods could earn you back 48 minutes per day and cut your dietary carbon footprint down by a third.
In fact, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition determined that eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day each can add as much as three years to your total lifespan.
More processed meat, more problems
Processed meat refers to any meat that has been preserved via curing, salting, smoking, drying, or canning methods. That includes bacon, sausages, hot dogs, and salami.
In a deep dive published by the American Journal of Nutrition, researchers found consuming at least 5.3 ounces of processed meat each week was associated with a 46% risk increase for developing heart disease. It also led to a 51% increased risk of early death from any cause compared to those who rarely consumed processed meat if at all.
The index provided by the University of Michigan highlighted many foods integral to the Mediterranean diet that were shown to add time to the average lifespan when consumed regularly. The Natural Medicine Journal also recently identified the regimen as one of the most effective for longevity.