5 Foods Scientifically Proven to Take Years off Your Life

By Mikey Rox on 10 March 2015 4 comments

We all know we're stuffing our faces with junk that isn't very good for us, but did you know that prolonged consumption of these so-delicious-they're-to-die-for foods might literally be killing us? It's true. Certain foods have been scientifically proven to adversely affect our health enough that you may be shaving years off your life without even knowing it. (See also: 6 Foods Scientifically Proven to Increase Your Lifespan)

What are these quiet, edible killers? Take a look.

1. Processed Meat

Most fast food joints and numerous casual dine-in establishments have built their foundations on processed meat, and we're falling right into their death trap.

"Eating processed meat is associated with an increased mortality risk," says Rene Ficek, registered dietitian and lead nutrition expert at Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating. "Popular processed meats like hot dogs, pepperoni, and salami may be tasty, but they have been found to contribute to shorter telomeres. Regularly eating processed meat significantly increases your risk of death from heart disease and cancer. Some studies have quantified these results to show that each extra daily serving (approximately two rashers of bacon) raises your mortality rate by a fifth. Replacing red meat with fish, poultry or plant-based proteins could reduce the health risks by up to 14%."

Fish sticks and chicken nuggets are excluded, of course.

2. Soda and Sugary Treats

I've never been a big fan of soft drinks. It's not completely banned from my life — I enjoy a refreshing soda every now and again (like twice a year) — but generally I steer clear. At the basic level, it's flavored, colored sugar water, and it will rot your teeth. In fact, one of my buddies had to have thousands of dollars worth of dental work done a few years ago to repair damage done by a decade or more of heavy cola consumption. I love my teeth too much for that nonsense.

"We've known for quite some time that sugary soda is bad for our health. However, soda is bad for the condition of telomeres because it is directly associated with a decreased lifespan," Ficek says. "There have been numerous studies that have looked deep into the effects of soda consumption and the length of life. In fact, soda consumption is so rampant in the United States alone that researchers have linked its consumption to the same effects as smoking. Research shows that simply drinking even a low-calorie diet soda daily is connected to an almost 70% increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, and an additional doubled rate of aging."

'Bout time you ditched the sweet, sweet bubbles, eh?

3. French Fries

Ask me to give up processed meats and soda forever, done deal. Ask me to give up French fries and you're dead to me.

It's frankly un-American not to harbor a deep-seated love for these crispy-on-the-outside-fluffy-on-the-inside snacks. French fries are frickin' delicious. Alas, like all good things, they should be consumed in moderation unless you want them served in your casket.

It's not just the fries themselves that are the worst part. Consider this doozy:

"The crispier [the French fries] are, the more harmful they can be," warns Ficek. "Things fried at high temperatures are likely to contain a chemical called acrylamide, which may be linked to increased rates of cancer. It's produced from a chemical reaction from the sugars and an amino acid called asparagine, which is found in many grains and vegetables. Potatoes have a particularly high amount of it, further exacerbating the French fry problem."

A not-so-happy meal, after all.

4. Wheat Gluten

More than I love French fries, I'm hopelessly devoted to a piping hot pizza. Sometimes I'll eat the whole thing without shame or apologies right in front of you because I'm a rude little piggy. Yet, while I know that all those carbs can and will make me fat, I had no idea that the gluten contained in the crust — even a whole wheat one — can screw up my body.

"Gluten — the protein found in wheat, rye, and barley — cannot be digested by anyone, and for those with celiac disease, symptoms, mortality, and risk for malignancy can each be reduced by adherence to a gluten-free diet," explains food-mood expert and certified nutritionist Trudy Scott. "Even if you don't have celiac disease, gluten should be avoided because of the inflammation it causes in everyone. Gluten sensitivity is of great interest to me because gluten sensitivity remains undertreated and under-recognized as a contributing factor to psychiatric and neurologic manifestations. As a nutritionist who works with women with anxiety, I see how food sensitivities like gluten can cause anxiety and fears and even social anxiety. Over 80% of my anxious clients do better mood-wise on a gluten-free diet."

5. Some Vegetable Oils

According to an article on Authority Nutrition, those heart-healthy vegetable oils you're buying because you think they're better for you are harboring a dangerous secret.

"[Soybean, corn, and cottonseed] oils contain very large amounts of Omega-6 fatty acids, way more than humans ever consumed throughout evolution," the site says. "We need small amounts of these fatty acids in the diet, such as the amounts found in meat and nuts. Eating too much of these fats can lead to inflammation, which is a leading cause of many chronic diseases. These oils get incorporated into our body fat stores and cellular membranes, where they are highly sensitive to oxidation and damage. To top it all off, the industrial vegetable oils that you find in the supermarket contain 0.56%-4.2% of their fatty acid as trans fats, which are highly toxic."

It's not all bad news, however. Olive oil is an exception — it's still good for you — so start making the switch today.

What other foods are sending us to an early grave? Let's talk about it in the comments below.

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Guest's picture
Trudy Scott, Food Mood Expert and Nutritionist

Great article! Thanks for including my contribution on gluten – it’s such a big factor when it comes to anxiety, together with sugar, caffeine, unhealthy fats, processed meats – many of which are mentioned in the article!

Regarding #1, I’d like to mention that processed red meat is a problem but grass-fed read meat has actually been shown to be beneficial for anxiety and depression as it’s a good source of iron, zinc, amino acids and omega-3s.

I'd also like to give credit to Dr. Tom O'Bryan – he is the doctor who shared with me the fact that gluten cannot be digested by anyone and that it causes inflammation in everyone. He is a world-recognized gluten expert and one of the many experts I interviewed on season 2 of The Anxiety Summit.

Guest's picture
Audrey

It is very problematic to state "scientifically proven" in your headline and not site a single scientific study, scientist, nor a reputable scientific journal in your article. Authority Nutrition (notwithstanding its ominous title) even has a disclaimer that it's not offering any medical advice and its CEO and major content contributor is a "medical student and certified personal trainer" ie not a scientist. And no offense to Ms. Scott below, but her expert opinion is not based on her research but credited to the opinion of a chiropractor (read not a medical doctor nor a PhD in any related field) and who makes a living selling anti-gluten rhetoric! Even someone who is an avid supporter of naturopathic medicine should be skeptical of this obvious bias and conflict on interest. I'm very disappointed with the quality of this article. We have an obligation to uphold journalistic standards (proper citation and fact checking) and scientific standards if claiming such.

Guest's picture
Kelly

Well said. Couldn't agree more

Guest's picture
Charles E

Hmm...can't digest gluten? I am a life long gluten steak consumer. Have never notice them coming through undigested in my bowel movements. I am 72 years of age have never consumed any animal flesh food. I have never consumed any alcohol or used tobacco in any form. I take no medications my blood pressure is normal. I recently had a colonoscopy done and the Dr remarked i had a healthy colon like someone in their 30's. When I have my annual physical all my blood work is normal. Many people remark that i look like I am in my 50's. I am active and have plenty of energy. All my family eats gluten and they have no issues concerning gluten. And if you are wondering if l belong to PETA...no i have no interest in that organization. I fully believe people have the right to choose what they want to eat and drink. If one makes poor choices then they have to live with the consequences.