Environment Livelihoods

Food diets determining the longevity of human life in minutes gained or lost

Food diets/ eating habits play a tremendous role in overall health in determining the longevity of human life. The choice of the right food diets can yield substantial gains for human health and the environment. A recent study has broken down how many minutes certain foods can add or take away from human life.

Research published in the Nature journal by the University of Michigan evaluated more than 5,800 types of food diets for their impact on lifespans and the environment. 

To identify environmentally sustainable foods that promote health, researchers combined nutritional health-based and 18 environmental indicators to evaluate, classify and prioritize individual foods. 

For nutrition, they developed the Health Nutritional Index to quantify marginal health effects in minutes of healthy life gained or lost of 5,853 foods diet, ranging from 74 min lost to 80 min gained per serving. 

They broke down diets into different zones: green, red, and amber zones. Green zone foods increase life longevity with low consequences to the environment. Red zone foods reduce life longevity and have a carbon footprint. 

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The green zone foods consist of nuts, fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and some seafood. Most poultry, dairy, egg-based foods, cooked grains, and vegetables produced in greenhouses are in the amber zone while the red zone contains processed meat, beef, pork, lamb, cheese-based foods, and some salmon dishes.

However, poultry and other amber zone foods vary based on how sustainably they are sourced, and how they are prepared. For example, the study lists an 85 gram serving of chicken wings as taking away 3.3 minutes because of the additional sodium and trans fatty acids.

In addition, plant-based diets aren’t certainly the best for health or the environment. “Although we find that plant-based foods generally perform better, there are considerable variations within both plant-based and animal-based foods,” said study author Katerina Stylianou.

Research analysis 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.

peanut butter and jelly sandwich adds 33 extra minutes in human life

For instance, classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich were found to give 33 extra minutes while a hot dog reduces 36 minutes. On the higher and lower ends of the spectrum, they claim corned beef will reduce 71 minutes while sardines add 82 minutes. 

The research is advocating for dietary changes for the gains of human health and the planet. It recommends substituting just 10 percent of our usual daily meat, processed foods, and shrimp consumption with veggies, nuts, legumes, and other seafood to add 48 minutes to our lifespan each day.

“The urgency of dietary changes to improve human health and the environment is clear,” senior author Olivier Jolliet explained. “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.” 

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