4. Eating ultra-processed foods every day may speed up the aging process
A study has established that there is an association between ultra-processed food consumption and telomere shortening. Telomeres are parts of chromosomes that can be made use of as biological age markers.
The study results suggest that people with a high intake of over 3 servings of ultra-processed foods every day were twice as likely to have short telomeres, which are a biological aging marker at the cellular level, indicating that diet may cause faster aging of the cells.1✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
Telomeres are structures situated at the ends of the chromosomes and made from a strand of DNA in conjunction with specialized proteins. Every human cell consists of 23 pairs of chromosomes which include genetic code, and although the telomeres don’t include genetic information, they are essential for the preservation of the integrity and stability of chromosomes and subsequently, the DNA that each cell in the body is reliant on for functioning.
As we age, the telomeres get shorter because a section of the telomere is lost every time a cell divides, so the length of the telomere is regarded as a biological age marker.
Ultra-processed foods are industrial formulated substances derived from food such as fats, oils, sugars, protein isolates, and starch that include little if any whole food and often contain emulsifiers, colorings, flavorings, as well as other cosmetic additives. The ingredients and processes made use of in the production of ultra-processed foods ensure they are convenient and attractive to consumers, and extremely profitable for the producers.
These properties also make them unbalanced or nutritionally poor, and likely to be consumed in excess, usually at the expense of more nutritious and less processed alternatives.
Research has linked ultra-processed foods with serious conditions such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, depression, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, and a variety of cancers. These diseases are often related to age and are associated with cellular aging, inflammation, and oxidative stress which can also affect telomere length.
A total of 241 women and 645 men aged 67.7 years old on average were included in the study and were divided into 4 groups of equal size graded from ‘low’ to ‘high’ based on their consumption of ultra-processed foods: under 2 daily servings, 2 to 2.5 daily servings, over 2.5 to 3 daily servings, and over 3 daily servings.
The researchers discovered that as the consumption of ultra-processed foods increased, the probability of having shortened telomeres significantly increased with each group above the lowest having an increase in the risk of 29% for the ‘medium-low’, 40% for the ‘medium-high’, and 82% for the ‘high’ groups consuming ultra-processed foods.
The researchers also revealed that consumption of ultra-processed foods was linked to the risk of obesity/overweight, hypertension, and depression, particularly in individuals with low physical activity levels.