Can Hot Dogs Shorten Your Life Span?

By: Stephanie Bontorin | Published: Jul 10, 2024

A new study has found a direct link between eating a diet heavy with ultra-processed foods, like deli meats, burgers, and hotdogs, and an increased risk of all-cause mortality in older people.

The research tracked the diet and health of over half a million participants over a span of 20 years and ultimately concluded that those weekend hot dogs could be seriously cutting your life short.

The Study Followed the Average American Diet

The study followed more than half a million adults who ate a mixture of unprocessed and ultra-processed foods.

Candy, burgers, muffins donuts, french fries, soda, and ice cream on a table

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What the scientists looked for specifically was a causation between illness and the standard American diet, which is rich in foods like deli meat, red meat, and pre-packaged meals and snacks.

The Data

The data was taken from a US Diet and Health Study that tracked the eating habits and health of more than half a million older people.

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The subjects’ ages ranged from 50 to 71 in 1995-1996, with a follow-up roughly 22 years later.

Connection to Obesity

The researchers used the NOVA system to score the diets of the subjects. The study looked at how people prepared their food and what types of items they ate daily.

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The information showed an immediate connection between people who ate an ultra-processed diet and a higher body mass index (BMI). The findings concluded that eating more pre-packaged foods were directly linked to being overweight and obese.

Findings are Trustworthy

The findings are trustworthy because of the approaches used to find the outcome.

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The researchers used food frequency questionnaires (FFQ) and a food-based approach to define ultra-processed food intake during the day.

American Nutrition Conference

The findings were recently presented at the American Society for Nutrition 2024 conference.

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Doctors, nutritionists, and dietitians were immediately drawn to the information presented.


Ultra-Processed Foods

Ultra-processed foods (UPF) are defined as foods created in labs and factories that use oils, fats, sugars, and proteins that have been heavily modified.

A woman holding a hot dog with ketchup and mustard

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Many of these foods include added coloring, enhanced flavors and hydrogenated fats and starch. The foods in this category are often inexpensive, highly addictive, and contain five or more ingredients.


Natural or Unprocessed Foods

On the other hand, natural or unprocessed foods are any item that comes directly from a plant or animal without processing, packaging, or alteration.

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Foods like these can quickly be frozen, cut, prepared, or washed before buying while still maintaining their minerals and nutrients. Eating a diet


New Information From the Study

The information that a diet heavy in ultra-processed foods can damage a person’s health.

An assortment of fast food items including burgers, crinkle fries with cheese and bacon toppings

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However, the long follow-up time presented in the study shows a new timeline of these types of diets on long-term health and morality. Dr. Michelle Routhenstein, a preventative cardiology dietitian, said, “This research shows that higher consumption of ultra-processed foods is associated with increased mortality risk independent of other factors like smoking, obesity, and diet quality.”


Specific Diseases Related to Diet

The highest amount of ultra-processed foods in a diet was directly correlated to an increased risk of death from heart disease and diabetes, but not cancer.

A person’s hand next to a blood sugar monitoring device insulin, and fruit.

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Previous findings encouraged a strong link between packaged foods and diseases like colorectal and stomach cancer, but this information presents a new diagnosis.


Added Factors

There were additional factors in the study that had previously not been studied.

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For instance, the older ages of the generation made it easy for the researchers to study the exact cause of death following specific diets.


Never Too Late To Change

One of the authors of the study made a point to note that it’s never too late to change dietary habits and form a better relationship with food.

A fat man holds his stomach with one hand and a burger on a plate with the other

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While younger people may not experience the negative effects of an ultra-processed diet for years, it shows up sooner than later.