We all want to know the many secrets to living a long and happy life. That’s why there are so many articles out there dedicated to all the different tips and tricks when it comes to adding on more years. While there truly is no telling what makes some people live to be 100 or more, we do know that certain habits can attribute to a long life. One of those habits is eating healthily.
While some foods can help you live to a good old age, there are some foods that can actually hurt your chances of achieving a long life. These foods will alter the components in your cells called telomeres. Telomeres, which are much like the little caps at the end of your shoelaces, help protect your DNA from damage. As your cells replicate, however, these telomeres shorten and can trigger cells to malfunction and die. Studies have linked shorter telomeres with conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases, and research has shown that lifestyle factors including your diet can speed up or slow down the shortening process.
Here are 7 foods that can contribute to telomere shortening and may shave off your lifespan bit by bit.
Soda – There is absolutely nothing beneficial in drinking soda. In fact, it’s bad news for your telomeres. A recent study of 5,309 adults in the American Journal of Public Healthshowed that a daily 20-ounce serving of soda was associated with 4.6 more years of aging. That’s the same amount of aging that researchers have linked to smoking. Even drinking an 8-ounce soda every day was linked to an additional 1.9 years of aging. Put down the sugary stuff and reach for water or tea instead!
Processed Meat – Processed meat such as hot dogs, pepperoni, and lunchmeat are also bad news for your telomeres. In a 2008 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the effect that multiple food groups had on the telomere length within 840 people was examined. Those who consumed one or more servings of processed meat each week had shorter telomeres than those who abstained from processed meat.
Red Meat – Along with processed meat, a higher intake of red meat like hamburgers or steak can be associated with shortened telomeres, along with heart disease and cancer. In a study conducted by Clinical Nutrition, rats were fed different diets of beef or chicken for 4 weeks. The rats that had more red meat were linked to decreased telomere length in their colon cells, and similar findings were shown for the white meat (though there was a greater effect with red meat).
Bacon – Sorry, bacon fans. This delicious food is full of sodium nitrate, which is converted to nitrosamine during the digestion process. Nitrosamine is a carcinogen, and even though it isn’t technically an “ingredient,” its presence can be overlooked on the packaging. This substance is where cancer problems can begin, so try to eschew bacon when possible!
Fries – They may be delicious, but fries are bad news for your health. Made with hydrogenated oil and fried at high temperatures, they also contain acrylamides, which are created during the frying process. One of the main sources of trans fat is something many fast food restaurants still use for deep frying – partially hydrogenated oil. The greater amount of trans fat that is present in your red blood cells, the greater your chances of having a heart attack will be, so try to lay off the fries (and fast food in general as well).
Alcohol – If this is your permanent accessory, you might want to rethink how much you drink alcohol. Like red meat, alcohol has a big connection to chronic health conditions and can also accelerate telomere shortening. Those who abuse alcohol (have 4+ drinks a day) will have dramatically shorter telomeres compared to those who drink moderately or not at all. You don’t have to give up the alcohol, but you really should consider being more mindful of how much you drink.
Donuts – As delicious as these treats are, donuts are full of hydrogenated oils, white enriched flour, sugar, and acrylamides. A Swedish study reported that acrylamides cause cancer in rats, and even more studies are showing that these substances can also cause cancer in humans. Try to say “no” to these pastries as much as possible to keep your telomeres happy and healthy.
So what should you consume for a healthy life? Stay tuned next month – we’ll cover the food you should probably consider eating for a long happy life!