- Credit: Picmenow

How much time does unhealthy food eat out of you?

The University of Michigan made some curious discoveries...

Healthy minutes

Eating a hot dog could cost you 36 minutes of healthy life, while choosing to eat a serving of nuts instead could help you gain 26 minutes of extra healthy life.

The study, conducted by the University of Michigan evaluated more than 5800 foods, ranking them by their nutritional disease burden and their impact on the environment. Both of which have an impact on the duration of our lives. The curious findings state that substituting 10% of daily caloric intake from beef and processed meats for a mix of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and select seafood could reduce your dietary carbon footprint by one-third and allow people to gain 48 minutes of healthy minutes per day.

Number crunching

The index is an adaptation of the Global Burden of Disease in which disease mortality and morbidity are associated with a single food choice of an individual. For HENI, researchers used 15 dietary risk factors and disease burden estimates from the GBD and combined them with the nutrition profiles of foods consumed in the United States, based on the "What We Eat in America" database of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Foods with positive scores add healthy minutes of life, while foods with negative scores are associated with health outcomes that can be detrimental for human health.

Credit: MDlinx

Credit: MDlinx

Food processing and environment

To evaluate the environmental impact of foods, the researchers utilised IMPACT World+, a method to assess the life cycle impact of foods (production, processing, manufacturing, preparation/cooking, consumption, waste), and added improved assessments for water use and human health damages from fine particulate matter formation. They developed scores for 18 environmental indicators taking into account detailed food recipes as well as anticipated food waste.

Finally, researchers classified foods into three colour zones: green, yellow and red, based on their combined nutritional and environmental performances, much like a traffic light.

Credit: New Hope Network

Credit: New Hope Network

Impact on people

The green zone represents foods that are recommended to increase in a person's diet and contains foods that are both nutritionally beneficial and have low environmental impacts. Foods in this zone are predominantly nuts, fruits, field-grown vegetables, legumes, whole grains and some seafood.

The red zone includes foods that have either considerable nutritional or environmental impacts and should be reduced or avoided in a person's diet. Nutritional impacts were primarily driven by processed meats, and climate and most other environmental impacts - driven by beef and pork, lamb and processed meats.

The researchers acknowledge that the range of all indicators varies substantially and also point out that nutritionally beneficial foods might not always generate the lowest environmental impacts and vice versa. The study offers a solid argument to improve our dietary habits, even with all the uncertainties.

Credit: Fathom News

Credit: Fathom News

Research suggestions

Decreasing foods with the most negative health and environmental impacts including high processed meat, beef, shrimp, followed by pork, lamb and greenhouse-grown vegetables.

Increasing the most nutritionally beneficial foods, including field-grown fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and low-environmental impact seafood.

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