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Processed foods make us older faster

Pamplona, Spain - Is it time to say goodbye to frozen pizzas, chips, and cookies? Yes, if you want to stay younger for longer. A new study found a link between processed food and biological aging.

Potato chips are full of fat and additives.
Potato chips are full of fat and additives.  © Daniel Karmann/dpa

Everyone knows that the sugar, salt, fat, and the other additives in highly processed foods taste good and tend to make us chubby. But ultra-processed foods don't just hang out on our hips. A new study from the University of Navarra in Spain has found a link between processed foods and aging!

Processed foods are really difficult for us to digest. Just take a look at what happens in your stomach when you eat Ramen.

Researchers found that people who eat lots of ultra-processed food every day have shorter telomeres. "Telomeres are the protective caps of our chromosomes and play a central role in the aging process," explains the Max Planck Society. The longer our telomeres, are the better.

Conversely, people who reported eating a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables had longer telomeres.

Chips every day will make you pay!

Huge selection, quickly prepared: ready meals are mixed with substances that make them tasty, but unfortunately there are hardly any ingredients in them that are good for the body.
Huge selection, quickly prepared: ready meals are mixed with substances that make them tasty, but unfortunately there are hardly any ingredients in them that are good for the body.  © 123rf.com/primagefactory

Researchers examined DNA samples of 886 people between 59 and 71 years old. The DNA came from the SUN Project and was collected between 1999 and 2018. The participants also submitted information about their diets.

They discovered that those who consumed three or more servings of ultra-processed foods per day had a higher risk of having shorter telomeres than those who ate less than two servings of processed food per day.

As we age our telomeres become shorter, naturally. This shortening makes us more susceptible to age-related diseases, explains News Medical. Bad nutrition can accelerate the aging process, as well as cause stress and inflammation.

Ultra-processed foods can lead to other problems too. Have you ever been in a bad mood after a cheat day? That's because your body is struggling to digest the processed food and doesn't have the nutrients it needs. Shorter telomeres are associated with depression, high blood pressure, and obesity.

One pizza a week isn't too bad.
One pizza a week isn't too bad.  © Jens Büttner/dpa

That said, it isn't all bad news. The study also showed that just one serving of processed food fewer meant less telomere shortening. So maybe cutting down on frozen pizza instead of cutting it out completely is enough.

Cover photo: Daniel Karmann/dpa, Jens Büttner/dpa, Peter Steffen/dpa, 123rf.com/primagefactory (Montage)

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