Highly Processed Food may Make You Old Before Your Time

Findings from a new scientific study suggest a link between eating a diet of highly processed food*–and the synthetic and industrialized chemicals it contains–and acceleration of the aging process.  More specifically, the study** revealed that those people who eat a lot of industrially processed food are more likely to exhibit a change in their chromosomes linked to aging.  People who eat three or more servings of ultra-processed food per day doubled the odds of having strands of DNA and proteins called telomeres*** (found on the end of chromosomes) shortened compared to people who rarely consumed such foods.  We know that short telomeres are a marker of biological aging at the cellular level, and this recent study suggests that diet is a factor in driving the cells to age faster.


*Highly industrially processed foods have little or no nutritional value and contain more additives (such as artificial flavorings, synthetic coloring/dyes, emulsifiers, preservatives and other additives) than natural food ingredients.

**Researchers examined health data for nearly 900 people (645 men and 241 women) aged 55 or older who provided DNA samples in 2008 and provided detailed data about their eating habits every two years thereafter.  Participants were equally divided into four groups, depending on their consumption of ultra-processed foods and telomere proteins were assessed.

***Telomeres do not carry genetic information, but are vital for preserving the stability and integrity of chromosomes and, by extension, the DNA that all the cells in our body relies on to function. As we get older, our telomeres shorten naturally because each time a cell divides, part of the telomere is lost. That reduction in length has long been recognized as a marker of biological age. (source)



Journal Reference: Alonso-Pedrero, L., et al. Ultra-processed food consumption and the risk of short telomeres in an elderly population of the Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra (SUN) Project, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 111, Issue 6, June 2020, Pages 1259–1266, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqaa075