Hot Dog Fans Receive Bad Health News as Part of New Study

As many of us know, eating hot dogs on a daily basis is not a healthy diet, but a new study from University of Michigan researchers found almost exactly how much of your life that hot dog could cost you. Researchers Olivier Jolliet and Katerina S. Stylianou unveiled their Health Nutritional Index in the latest issue of Nature Food, to show how unhealthy foods could shave off minutes of your life and how healthier choices could add minutes. Their study found that substituting just 10% of the daily caloric intake of beef and processed meats with plant-based foods could add 48 minutes of life per day.

Their study found that eating just one hot dog can cost a person 36 minutes of a “healthy” life. However, 30 grams of nuts and seeds could provide an increase of 25 minutes of healthy life. “Our study also showed that substituting only 10% of the daily caloric intake of beef and processed meats for a diverse mix of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and select seafood could reduce, on average, the dietary carbon footprint of a U.S. consumer by one-third and add 48 healthy minutes of life per day,” Jolliet and Stylianou wrote for The Conversation. “This is a substantial improvement for such a limited dietary change.”

The Health Nutritional Index was based on data from the Global Burden of Disease, which examined the costs and benefits of environmental, metabolic, and behavioral factors. The University of Michigan team took that data and adapted it to look at the costs and benefits of eating individual foods. They discovered that 0.45 minutes are lost per gram of any processed meat an American eats. So eating a hot dog could cost you 27 minutes of life based on just the processed meat, but when you factor in other risks like sodium and trans-fatty acids, the value increases to 36 minutes lost.

Overall, the study looked at over 5,800 foods and mixed dishes. “We then compared scores from the health indices with 18 different environmental metrics, including carbon footprint, water use, and air pollution-induced human health impacts,” the researchers wrote. “Finally, using this health and environmental nexus, we color-coded each food item as green, yellow, or red.”

The study wasn’t just about how unhealthy foods impact people individually, but also the carbon footprint they leave behind. Beef leaves the largest carbon footprint during its lifecycle, the researchers noted, four times that of poultry and dairy. The researchers suggested eating less highly processed meat and beef while increasing plant-based foods. This all seems like advice we’ve heard before but now we at least know that you could miss a chance to watch one more episode of your favorite sitcom if you eat that hot dog.

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