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What If Processed Foods Turn Out To Be The Fountain Of Youth?

Posted by on Mar 29, 2012 | 7 Comments

The year is 2045.  The International Federation of Food Experts releases the first major comprehensive longitudinal controlled study of the effects of food preservatives.  The results are shocking.

The people that consumed the most processed foods over the course of their lives not only lived an average of 15 years longer, but also tested higher for overall health and happiness.  Those that consumed the most raw, unprocessed foods died the earliest.

After studying blood and other tissue samples for years, scientists concluded the preservatives in foods actually slow the aging of cells, thus providing a wealth of health benefits.  Most of the prior research that suggested processed foods were bad can be attributed to an intake issue- it’s not what people ate, rather how much they ate that was problematic.

Based on the findings, the IFFE recommends 3-4 servings of highly-processed food each and every day.  Hello, Twinkies!


So… sounds unlikely, doesn’t it?  Based on our current dietary climate, there’s more or less universal agreement that processed foods are unhealthy.  Most of the research, which is correlational in nature or conducted on animals, points in that direction.  We certainly seem to have lots of anecdotal evidence to support this premise.

But what if we’re wrong?

It certainly wouldn’t be the first time we have been wrong.  Remember when we believed the Earth was the center of the universe?  How about the idea that the modern running shoe actually reduced injuries?  What about The Hangover II being labeled a “comedy?”

Lots of people seem pretty certain about the superiority of their dietary choices.  There’s the paleo crowd, the vegan folks, the raw food group… the list goes on and on.  For those geeks among us, some of us may actually take an experimental approach to determining our own ideal diet.  In that case, your diet is probably warranted.

What about those of us that just follow the crowd?  We read an article or a book citing questionable research and some logical argument, then completely shift our eating habits.  While it can be fun to change things us a bit, is it really better?  Furthermore, should we be preachy about our choices?  There’s a pretty good chance many things we do today will be shown to be detrimental to our health, even if it seems like a good idea today.

This idea can be extended to many facets of our lives.  We’ve developed a fairly strong “nature bias” where we assume natural things are automatically better even if the research does not support the premise.  Is this warranted?  Should we apply more skepticism to the “natural is better” ideas?

Barefoot running has been a pretty good example of this.  At some point in the past, our ancestors ran around barefoot.  Because of this, people make the logical leap that barefoot running is inherently superior and everyone should be doing it.  Emerging research certainly points toward the advantages of barefoot running.  Furthermore, it seems the advantages outweigh the disadvantages for most people, especially if you take the time to learn good form and transition in a way that allows the bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles to properly adapt.

Still, it would be smart for people to do their own self-experimentation.  Educate yourself.  Set up a controlled environment and actually test out barefoot running.  If it helps, keep doing it.  If it doesn’t help, stop.  For many, minimal shoes would be a better choice.  Maybe a “transition shoe” would be a better solution.  Hell, raised-heel cushioned foot coffins could be the best solution for some.  In the absence of overwhelming scientific evidence, rely on self-experimentation.

Will processed foods turn out to be a panacea to a long, healthy life?  Probably not.  Regardless, it’s not a bad idea to automatically buy into movements that aren’t supported by a large body of research unless you test the ideas through self-experimentation.

In the unlikely event processed food do turn out to be a wonderful anti-aging remedy, I wanted to be the first to jump on the bandwagon.  😉


In Other News…

Emily from Merrell’s Pretty Strong video will be hosting a chat session tonight (Thursday, March 29th) from 7-8 (est) on Merrell’s Facebook page.  She will be discussing transitioning, goals, and any other topics.  She will also introduce the barefoot 5k challenge- tune in for more details!

I’ll be there, too.  😉



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  1. Sam H.
    March 29, 2012

    Interesting thought. What about the guy who dieted and sucessfully lost weight by eating only junk food? What if we were to eat within our allowable caloric value but ate foods with high amounts of preservatives? How ’bout we test that theory on rats first.

  2. karen
    March 29, 2012

    Gamers ruling the world,processed food being the fountain of youth? Oh dear. I gotta disagree. I live in a small, rural community where a large percent of the population consumes crappy, processed food. That combined with poverty and a substandard education and it’s a disaster. Not 20 miles from where I live is a “progressive” college town with its food co-op and an amazing farmers market.I see kids from both ends of the spectrum (adults too).It’s so important to get healthy food to all the population-fresh and local! And it’s healthier for the planet-but I’m getting preachy,now. Oh, I’m a vegan.

  3. BarefootNick
    March 29, 2012

    I began reading diet related material after finding that what I was doing seemed to make me feel like sleeping a lot, cause my mood to swing more than I was comfortable with and exercise to be a chore.

    It’s easy to test if overly processed food is good for you. Go spend a day at McD or Burger King. Then pick a random sampling of the crowd and ask them to cover, say 26 miles, in less than a generous five or even six hours.

    I say “overly” processed because any time you do anything with raw ingredients, you process them to some extent.

    Cooking blended bananas and strawberries becomes a processed food.
    Processing in and of itself isn’t bad. It’s the quality of ingredients that will be the end of us. Or at least that UK girl who almost diet from vitamin deficiencies because she had been eating McD almost exclusively.

  4. jeff
    March 29, 2012

    “we assume natural things are automatically better even if the research does not support the premise”

    Indeed. Such people must remember, while arsenic is natural, it probably shouldn’t be part of our regular diet.

    • Aaron
      March 29, 2012

      Just like my bioethics professor likes to say, “Just because it is natural doesn’t mean it is good for you.” One lady in the class blew a gasket over that, and I got a good laugh over her!

      Gracia y paz,


      • Erik
        March 29, 2012

        Yah, it’s natural to die. ‘Natural’ is basically what humans do everywhere, no matter the historical or cultural context. Still, I think thinking things through in evolutionary terms can be a useful exercise.

  5. Erik
    March 29, 2012

    If you really want to pickle yourself, try a little vinegar and formaldehyde mixed in with your booze. That should do the trick.