Eating Ultra-Processed Foods Makes You Age Faster, Study Finds

It leads to chromosomal changes that age the body more quickly.
Fabienne Lang

It turns out that if you eat ultra-processed foods, you may age more quickly. A new study from researchers at the University of Navarra, Pamplona, in Spain, has uncovered the fact that telomeres are shortened after the consumption of ultra-processed foods

Telomeres are linked to signs of aging in the body. 

The study is being shared at the European and International Conference on Obesity (ECOICO 2020), held virtually from today, September 1st, until Friday 4 September. 

Shortened telomeres

The study disclosed that telomeres, chromosomes that can be used as a marker for age, were twice as likely to be short in people who ate ultra-processed foods (UPF) at least three times a day over an extended period of time. 

Having shorter telomeres is linked to biological aging at the cellular level, and the study points out that certain diets can lead to cells aging more quickly. 

The global consumption of UPFs is increasing, while fresh food consumption is decreasing. You'll find UPFs in a number of places and they offer little to no nutritional value (fats, sugars, starch, etc). As it stands, they're incredibly convenient as they typically create low-cost ingredients that last longer than fresh food — they're as convenient for the manufacturer as they are for the consumer. 

However, UPFs lead to negative outcomes and can be linked to issues with obesity, depression, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension, among others. These are typically age-related as well. 

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The team's objective was to study the link between aging and UPF consumption. The team managed to reach their conclusion through a study that began in 1999 in Spain and is ongoing. Volunteers need to be 20 years old or older, and self-report accurately what they consume in a questionnaire mailed to them every two years, including a saliva sample.

The team discovered that the higher the consumption of UPFs, the higher the chances of the person having shorter telomeres was. 

As per the authors of the study "In this cross-sectional study of elderly Spanish subjects we showed a robust strong association between ultra-processed food consumption and telomere length. Further research in larger longitudinal studies with baseline and repeated measures of TL is needed to confirm these observations."

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