Ultra-Processed Food & Aging. The Wrong Kind Of Back To The Future:
Most of us get told to eat better all the time.
It’s the most popular topic in health and wellness other than bizarre crash diets.
And fair enough, because most of us probably should be eating a little bit better.
But the strangest thing about the deep-dives on this subject is that Dr. Neal Barnard’s superfoods for your brain and Joel Fuhrman’s emphasis on whole foods and micronutrients are looking like just the tip of the iceberg.
Because a Spanish research team is finding out that for a certain class of foods, the problems in your diet can get way worse than just you becoming a little fatter…
The Short Answer:
- We all should eat better.
- Sometimes it sounds like researchers are being too picky, but they really aren’t.
- Your grandmother was right that snacks should be the exception and not the rule.
- Researchers found fruits & vegetables are good for you in ways most people did not imagine.
- They are also finding ultra-processed foods are bad for you in ways most people would not imagine.
- Americans currently consume up to 60% of their diet from ultra-processed foods.
- ~900 subjects in Spain’s SUN project were DNA-tested for premature-aging.
- Those who ate 2-2.5 servings a day of UPFs were 30% more likely to be aging prematurely.
- This is shown by cell-structures that act like toll-booths for cell-replication, called Telomeres.
- The longer your telomeres, the slower you’re aging.
- People who ate more than 3 servings/day of ultra-processed foods were 80%+ more likely to be aging prematurely.
- UPFs are everywhere, and their consumption is going up while more natural food consumption is going down.
- Dairy, processed meats, cookies, baked-goods, and sugar-sweetened beverages are just a few sources.
- Most of the cellular damage comes from Inflammation & Oxidative-Stress.
- Too much Sodium has also been implicated in other studies.
- Behavioral and hereditary factors seem to coincide with UPF consumption, too.
- Serious health-problems like obesity, diabetes, depression, high blood-pressure, high cholesterol, and other more serious diseases have been linked to chronic UPF consumption.
- In the face of their rise, it’s probably more important than ever to listen to health-nerds like Dr. Joel Fuhrman and Neal Barnard on eating as best you can.
Read on to find out the details…
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So from time-immemorial, we all hear the stories from our mothers & grandmothers.
Eat your dinner & vegetables or no dessert for you, young man!
We tend to think that only old people from the 40s who ate canned food for a living are the ones who think treats should be the exception and not the rule.
President Camacho did!
But actually, it turns out Mom & Granny were right, fruits & vegetables even improve your mindset!
Worse still, we also tend to think that getting a little bit fatter is the only consequence of overdoing it with snacks.
But unfortunately, it isn’t.
Even extra bodyfat turns out to be a lot more harmful for us that we thought.
Just like most of the thousands of chemicals we use not thoroughly being tested for safety,
We don’t have an exact idea on the safety of the specific cocktail of ingredients and additives in our processed foods either.
-Especially after long-term or excessive use.
But researchers are getting closer every day.
The French even banned one because it couldn’t be verified as safe for consumption.
And sadly, the ultra-processed foods at-issue make up as much as 60% of the average American’s diet!
And to that end, here’s what the Navarra U. team found out.
Ultra-processed food somehow ages you faster by hurting a special part of your genetic structure.
By testing the DNA of almost 900 people from Spain’s SUN health-data project with an average age 68,
They found that increased consumption of UPFs shortens the protective caps, called Telomeres, on the ends of your DNA.
In the samples that were collected, subjects were grouped into 4 tiers of UPF consumption:
1) Less than 2 servings/day
2) 2-2.5 servings/day
3) 2.5-3 servings/day
4) More than 3 servings/day
Shockingly, as soon as people moved into group 2, their chance of having shorter telomeres shot up to ~30%!
Then in the next group, it went up another 10 to 40%.
And in the highest quartile, it just went off the charts to more than an 80% chance of having shorter telomeres!
-Which is pretty terrifying.
Because UPFs are designed to hit all the standard hunger-points in ways that are hard to resist,
Just like the snacks at a catered-party.
Their costs are also fairly-low, so they’re also easiest to buy among most food groups.
For example, Navarra’s team broke-down the UPF sources into these categories:
1) 17% Dairy
2) 15% Processed Meats
3) 12% Pastries
4) 9% Cookies
5) 9% Sugar-Sweetened Beverages
So, they are found in a variety of food-categories and perhaps increasingly-difficult to avoid.
And as we mentioned in an earlier superpost on Ultra-Processed Foods,
They are all at or near the bottom of The NOVA system for classifying how natural or processed a food really is.
So thankfully, co-author Maira Bes-Rastrollo and her other colleagues do have some ideas on how UPFs affect us.
And it’s a bit of a triple-whammy.
They actually age us at the cellular & genetic level because of the way they interfere with that specific structure that seems to help keep us young.
Because so far, it looks to scientists like it comes from Inflammation that’s been cited here many times,
The Oxidative Stress created by the harmful by-products of sugar-metabolism we talked about in the sugar & SAD post,
And potentially large-imbalances of ingredients interfering directly with the telomeres themselves,
That can easily be a problem, because just the way our normal Omega 6:3 oil balance of 1:1 is totally out of whack today at about 20:1,
Sodium content in UPF can easily become elevated, and our natural balance of that element can get undone and stay that way because of the foods we continue to eat.
And to wrap-up, you might have already guessed from the previous UPF post that the Navarra team also found behavioral factors intersecting that didn’t help either.
People who found themselves in the high-UPF group also:
1) Habitually ate more bad foods.
2) Ate fewer good foods.
3) Have worse eating habits, like snacking in-between meals.
4) Have a family history of risk-factors like heart-disease, diabetes, & cholesterol problems.
This is worrisome for all of us, because UPF consumption across the whole world is also going up,
And healthy/whole-food consumption is also going down at the same time.
UPF consumption in-general also carries a higher-association with high blood-pressure, obesity, depression (esp. in low-exercisers), diabetes, and even some forms of The Big C.
-So the people at-risk are not as much a small isolated group as you might think.
And with that, we come full-circle.
Because Navarra’s researchers are in full-agreement with Dr. Joel Fuhrman and the NOVA system.
There are just a ton of healthy components in whole foods that are as close to their source as possible,
That are hard to replicate in cheap, addictive, high-profit, low-spoilage, mass-produced factory foods.
Like Dr. Joel’s emphasis on all the fiber & micronutrients you get from eating a big salad every day.
So be very careful how you eat!
We’re finding out more & more about the far-reaching & unexpected-impacts of all the strange additives and component-imbalances that nobody would have imagined when first coming up with the factory-miracle of ultra-processed food!