Buzzkill of a Study Suggests That Eating One Hot Dog Can Take 35 Minutes Off Your Life

How many loved ones can you say goodbye to in the time one wiener will shave off your life?

Hot dogs
A tray of hot dogs sit on a table waiting to be devoured before the 2019 Nathan's Famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest on Coney Island on July 4, 2019 in New York.
AFP via Getty Images

We all know that hot dogs aren’t great for us, but a new enormous bummer of a study has fresh insight into just how horrible those delicious tubes of processed meat actually are for our health. According to researchers from the University of Michigan School of Public Health, eating a single hot dog can take up to 35 minutes off your life.

To give you some perspective on just how bad that is, that’s worse than a cigarette, which reportedly takes 11 minutes off your life. As part of the study, researchers surveyed over 5,800 different items and released a nutritional index that ranked various foods by minutes gained or lost off a healthy life per serving. The health effects ranged from 74 minutes lost to 80 minutes gained per serving, with processed meats and sugary drinks ranking as the most insidious.

“We use the results to inform marginal dietary substitutions, which are realistic and feasible,” the authors of the study wrote. “We find that small, targeted, food-level substitutions can achieve compelling nutritional benefits and environmental impact reductions.”

So yes, a hot dog will allegedly shorten your life by 35 minutes, but ultimately it’s probably worth it. Before you resign yourself to an early demise and start shopping around for a bun-shaped coffin to make your final resting place, it’s worth pointing out that you can offset that loss of time by counteracting it with a healthy option that will add some minutes back. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich, for example, was found to increase your life by 33 minutes. So if you have a hot dog for lunch one day and a PB&J the next, you’re pretty much breaking even. (And let’s be honest: if you try to cut out the less healthy foods entirely, there’s a good chance you’ll waste way more than 35 minutes of your life fantasizing about eating a hot dog anyway.)

Chances are you’re not slurping down Joey Chestnut-level quantities of hot dogs — and even he seems to be doing okay, all things considered. (Crunching the numbers, the 76 dogs he shoved down his gullet at this year’s Nathan’s hot dog-eating contest have shortened his life by roughly 45 hours.) Above all, remember that moderation in all things should generally be the guiding principle here: while no one expects you to cut out your unhealthy indulgences entirely, the study highlights how even just slightly tweaking your diet can help extend your life and reduce your carbon footprint. Researchers found that substituting just 10% of one’s daily calories for an equal amount of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes or “select seafood” could add as many as 48 minutes of healthy life per day and reduce one’s dietary carbon footprint by a third.

“Previous studies investigating healthy or sustainable diets have often reduced their findings to a discussion of plant-based versus animal-based foods, with the latter stigmatized as the least nutritious and sustainable,” the study says. “Although we find that plant-based foods generally perform better, there are considerable variations within both plant-based and animal-based foods that should be acknowledged before such generalized inferences are warranted.”


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