Hot Dogs Can Shorten Human Life Expectancy?

Claim:

Eating hot dogs can reduce a person’s life expectancy.

Rating:

False

An archived Reddit post on the forum “r/OutOfTheLoop” posited that hot dogs can reduce a person’s life expectancy by 30 minutes each time they’re eaten. The redditor reported seeing many articles saying as much while citing a study from University of Michigan. 

An article for Metro on Aug. 20, 2021, explained the study in this way: 

A new study by researchers at the University of Michigan has suggested that you may lose 36 minutes of healthy life after eating one hot dog, while other foods can actually ‘add’ time to your life.

Studying 5,800 commonly-eaten foods, they also found that chicken wings will subtract 3.3 minutes of your life, while – perhaps surprisingly – a peanut butter and jam sandwich could increase your lifespan by over half an hour.

Salted peanuts add 26 minutes and baked salmon gains you 13.5 minutes.

But the viral post misinterpreted the study. The researchers in the study were talking about Healthy Life Expectancy (HALE), a statistic that represents the number of years a person can live in good health, as opposed to the number of years lived in less-than-good health, due to disease or injury. The foods analyzed were suggested to add or subtract years from a person’s HALE, not their actual life expectancy.

The University of Michigan researchers concluded small changes in a person’s diet can be just as effective as wholesale changes. In the study, researchers tested foods based on their “Health Nutritional Index” and quantified the amount of minutes of “healthy life” that can be lost or gained — the amount of time in which a person has a good quality of life and is disease-free — not actual physical life minutes. According to the abstract: 

To identify environmentally sustainable foods that promote health, we combined nutritional health-based and 18 environmental indicators to evaluate, classify and prioritize individual foods. Specifically for nutrition, we developed the Health Nutritional Index to quantify marginal health effects in minutes of healthy life gained or lost of 5,853 foods in the US diet, ranging from 74 min lost to 80 min gained per serving. Environmental impacts showed large variations and were found to be correlated with global warming, except those related to water use. Our analysis also indicated that substituting only 10% of daily caloric intake from beef and processed meat for fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and selected seafood could offer substantial health improvements of 48 min gained per person per day and a 33% reduction in dietary carbon footprint.

In the study, the researchers found that hot dogs were among the worst foods both environmentally and nutritionally, assessing that a single one can shave 36 minutes off of a person’s “healthy life.” Olivier Jolliet, one of the lead researchers on the study, spoke to USA Today in an article from 2021. He stated: 

I wouldn’t get too worried about eating a hot dog from this,” Jolliet said. “Basically, we were trying to show how you can improve your lifestyle and the environment without necessarily trying to be vegan.

The study acts as an illustration for the way in which a person can change a diet to impact long-term wellbeing. Jolliet also told USA Today: 

The condition of the study is for marginal change and for the everyday (American) where they can make minimum changes in their diet for overall health and the environment.

In short, the study is simply a guide to making better dietary choices for both personal nutritional and environmental benefits, emphasizing the benefit of small changes. Jolliet told Metro: 

The urgency of dietary changes to improve human health and the environment is clear.

Our findings demonstrate that small targeted substitutions offer a feasible and powerful strategy to achieve significant health and environmental benefits — without requiring dramatic dietary shifts.’

Because this study states that hot dogs take away 36 minutes of “healthy life,” and not actual life expectancy, we have rated the claim “False.”

 

 

 

 

Sources

Gleeson, Scott. “A Hot Dog Shaves 36 Minutes off Life, Study Says. Nathan’s Champion Joey Chestnut Isn’t Worried.” USA TODAY, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2021/08/26/hot-dog-shortens-life-study-says-nathans-joey-chestnut-worried/5598206001/. Accessed 28 June 2024.

Inside Edition. Does Eating 1 Hot Dog Really Take 36 Minutes Off Your Life? 2021. YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1h02K-getnM.

Lindsay, Jessica. “Eating a Single Hot Dog Could Reduce Your Lifespan by 36 Minutes.” Metro, 20 Aug. 2021, https://metro.co.uk/2021/08/20/eating-a-single-hot-dog-could-reduce-your-lifespan-by-36-minutes-15124218/.

Stylianou, Katerina S., et al. “Small Targeted Dietary Changes Can Yield Substantial Gains for Human Health and the Environment.” Nature Food, vol. 2, no. 8, Aug. 2021, pp. 616–27. www.nature.com, https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-021-00343-4.

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