Food Choices & Lifespan. Your Life Could Get Shorter If You Choose Poorly:
So we’ve written extensively in the past about nutrition on this site.
Not just the standard stuff, but the freaky-outliers on both ends of the spectrum.
From Superfoods, to Micronutrients, to foods that seem to have their own biochemistry built-in.
But interestingly-enough, we don’t have much of an actual ratings-system for food.
You know how much octane is in certain fuels, and what ratings all the movies have.
Well, a U. Michigan team got together and assembled that system; and they also added some really-interesting “mileage” information, too…
The Short Answer:
- We all know about things like Superfoods.
- Some people even know about Micronutrients.
- But there isn’t really a ratings-system for food the way there is for almost everything else.
- The kind of things your grandma might have told you are a good start.
- Staying away from ultra-processed foods is a good idea, too.
- University researchers at Michigan are creating a system called HENI.
- It’s based on a Big Data set about the association between disease & food-choices called GBD.
- So far, they’ve rated thousands of foods.
- The current list of categories is boiled down to about 47 on some charts.
- Foods like Nuts & Seeds are the healthiest, and estimated to add about 21+ minutes to your lifespan.
- This scale continues on down through many types of foods and ends at processed-meats & hot dogs.
- Hot dogs are estimated to subtract about 36 minutes from your lifespan.
- Some of the results seem like outliers.
- Things like PB&J and Candy seem like the correlations are selectively-incorrect.
- But the whole scale still looks very plausible.
- The foods on the bottom of the scale are thought to hurt you through Inflammation, Oxidative-Stress, and other biochemical disturbances.
- Studies & ratings-systems like this are probably just the beginning of Big Data’s impact on health.
Read on to find out the details…
→ Show/Hide Table Of Contents ←
So if you think about it, at least for the type of health-nut crowd that comes by HealthTrekker,
A lot of us really try to do better in our nutritional choices.
Whether it’s the magic of the hidden-compounds that Dr. Joel Fuhrman & Neal Barnard talk about,
In things your grandma told you to eat like spinach & broccoli,
Or just trying to avoid the toxic-waste that is Ultra-Processed Foods.
We’re all following Hippocrates’ ancient rule, “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.”
Unfortunately though, many more of us seem to be getting Ultra-Processed Foods lately,
–Especially kids; which is pretty lame, because they really need to build a good healthy base to give them the best chances possible.
And even though parents should know better, perhaps many of the choices made are purely out of convenience.
Sadly, that convenience & cost frequently violates the iron-triangle of project management.
Speed [sic. convenience], Quality, & Cost. -Pick two.
But now, thanks to Michigan’s team, we are beginning to get a much clearer ratings-picture of what the Human Cost of all that convenience & low-prices really add up to for us.
To create this ratings-system, called HENI, the researchers used the associations between food and disease,
That are found in a larger set of data from what’s called the Global Burden of Disease.
They gave them all ratings on a scale based on how frequently those foods seem to be associated with increasingly-serious diseases.
This also includes a rough-estimate of the amount of healthy life you would lose or gain based on mortality-figures.
In-addition to that, for those who are concerned, the foods were also given an Environmental score just in-case choices could be made to reduce carbon emissions.
And here is a fair bit of the scale they came up with, from best to worst.
Best to worst foods roughly in order of the HENI scale for adding or subtracting minutes of life:
1) Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches
2) Nuts & Seeds: Adds 21 minutes
5) Legumes, Beans, & Soy
6) Vegetables non-starchy
7) Mixed Vegetables
8) Ready to eat cereals
9) Seafood Mixed Dishes
10) Cooked Cereals
11) Cooked Grains
12) Snack/Meal Bars
13) Starchy vegetables
14) Breads, Rolls, Tortillas
15) Quick Breads & Bread Products
16) Crackers & Savory Snacks
21) Butter, Animal Products, & Fats
23) Condiments & Sauces
25) Asian Mixed Dishes
26) Mexican Mixed Dishes
27) Other Pasta Mixed Dishes
28) Other Grain-Based MIxed Dishes
29) Sweet Bakery Products
30) Other Desserts
33) Poultry Sandwiches
35) Cheese Sandwiches
36) Macaroni & Cheese
38) Red Meat
39) Sugar Sweetened Beverages
42) Meat Mixed Dishes
44) Other Sandwiches
45) Egg/Breakfast Sandwiches
46) Cured Meats
47) Hot Dogs: Subtracts 37 minutes
Some of these will be easy to understand, while there are one or two outliers that might be more difficult.
-The most glaring one being the conflation of the youth & health associated with the people who eat peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and candy.
The jelly probably has too much added-sugar to be very healthy.
Other items like Breads & Sugar should probably be a lot lower.
Also absent is a more-conspicuous list of Ultra-Processed foods other than Hot Dogs & Cured Meats.
-Although, it’s looking like the Egg/Breakfast Sandwiches probably fall into that category, because they come mainly from the frozen food section or fast-food restaurants.
And as you can see, we go all the way up from Hot Dogs, which can subtract 37 minutes from your life based on the stats,
All the way up to Nuts & Seeds which can add 21+ minutes to your life.
It’s also probably safe to assume that these are per-standard-serving numbers, too.
Interestingly enough, if you’d read the superpost on nuts,
You might not be surprised.
In fact they’re so healthy, yet another study came out stating that 5 ounces per week of Walnuts in particular had the following effects:
1) 14 Percent Drop in Risk of Death from All Causes
2) 25 Percent Lower Risk of Death from Cardiovascular Disease
3) Average Increase in Lifespan of 1.3 Years
These effects even persisted in modestly-lower numbers for people eating just 1/2 ounce/day.
And as that superpost would have told you out of all the different types, Walnuts edge-out as the healthiest of them all.
So the HENI results are no surprise.
To highlight the inflection points of the scale, where things go past positive-on-average and into +/- neutral territory,
That line appears to start at #12 Snack & Meal Bars, and continues on through Candy.
Again, this last item appears to be correlated with the health & youth of the population most likely to consume it,
Than the actual healthiness of the food-item itself.
Anyway, past that every thing from Butter, Animal Products & Fats at #21,
All the products turn Negative in their health & lifespan impact,
Until you reach the lowest-of-lows at #47-Hot Dogs, losing you 37 minutes of your life for each one of those death-sticks you choose to inflict on yourself.
Happy Fourth of July!
For those of you who are curious, the main reasons these lower-end & Ultra-Processed Foods are thought to hurt you & shorten life,
Is through Inflammation, Oxidative-Stress, Imbalances of Blood-Sugar, Insulin, and the stress-hormone Cortisol which is often paired with it,
Also implicated is storing of excess body-fat, and damage to the gut microbes that change the biochemicals they produce.
Something about the biochemical by-products the ingredients in these foods create may even hurt the parts of your DNA most associated with keeping you young.
The excess amounts of sugar in them have been associated with both oxidative-stress and depression.
And even higher-amounts of sodium have been linked to big changes in your gut microbes that are unhealthy, too!
So now thanks to Katerina, Olivier, and their fellow scientists in this absolute Beast of a study,
We all have at-least some type of numerical gauge that we can understand for what we eat.
So, it’s a little less vague thanks to the stats that health pros have been able to tabulate over the years.
And it seems like this type of work is just the tip of the iceberg for what may be an increasingly data-driven future for all things,
From banking all the way to health & wellness.
So be careful with your food and these new numbers, the wrong choices could take some of your time here away.
• Source: U.Mich
• Source Study: Nature Food – Small targeted dietary changes can yield substantial gains for human and environmental health
• More Coverage: The GBD | What We Eat In America DB | AHA -Abstract P226: HEalth Nutritional Index (HENI): A Health Burden Based Tool for Food and Diet Nutritional Evaluation