Modernity presented itself as a miracle: using technology, we could beat back the limitations imposed on us by nature, and live in luxury with minimal risk. Primarily that failed because now we spend all our time doing useless stuff for the System, but it failed another way.
Our modern solutions turn out to have a dark side, which is that while they technically meet the needs presented, they also harm us in subtle, invisible, and long-term ways. The latest to fall seems to be our high-sugar and high-carb diet:
Earlier studies had pointed to a possible link with sugar-sweetened drinks, processed meats, and other foods loaded with saturated fats and sugar, but the findings were inconclusive.
Ultra-processed foods are industrially manufactured substances composed of some mix of oils, fats, sugars, starch, and proteins that contain little if any whole or natural foods.
Three or more servings of so-called “ultra-processed food” per day doubled the odds that strands of DNA and proteins called telomeres, found on the end of chromosomes, would be shorter compared to people who rarely consumed such foods, scientists reported at the European and International Conference on Obesity.
Short telomeres are a marker of biological ageing at the cellular level, and the study suggests that diet is a factor in driving the cells to age faster.
We run into a causation/correlation problem here because the junk food eaters tended to also have lots of other health problems:
Those in the high-intake group were more likely to have a family history of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and abnormal blood fats.
Damage to the telomeres is particularly significant because it means that your offspring and descendants will have a shorter lifespan, mainly through reduced immune capacity leading to early disease:
The gradual aging of the immune system is partly marked by shortened telomeres, the DNA–protein caps at the ends of chromosomes that protect genes from degradation.
Telomere length is a marker of cell aging that appears to be one mediator of this relationship. Telomere length is associated with early adversity and with chronic stressors in adulthood in many studies.
It turns out that modern foods are cheaper, meaning that the ingredients are less expensive, but these ingredients turn out to be not as good for us as whole meats, vegetables, nuts, berries, and dairy products as our traditional diet recommends.
In particular, fructose-based cuisine seems to be killing us off with Non-Alcohol Fatty Liver Disease (original study):
Excessive consumption of fructose — a sweetener ubiquitous in the American diet — can result in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is comparably abundant in the United States.
Fructose consumption in the U.S. has skyrocketed since the 1970s and the introduction of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a cheaper sugar substitute that is broadly used in processed and packaged foods, from cereals and baked goods to soft drinks. Multiple studies in animals and humans have linked increased HFCS consumption with the nation’s obesity epidemic and numerous inflammatory conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
“With the advent of modern biochemistry and metabolic analysis, it became obvious that fructose is two to three times more potent than glucose in increasing liver fat, a condition that triggers NAFLD. And the increased consumption of soft drinks containing HFCS corresponds with the explosive growth in NAFLD incidence.”
In other words, in a classic shopkeeper move, society cut its margins and dropped costs in order to “feed” more people, but in return, has demonstrated the high value of the ingredients we replaced with more democratic alternatives.
Tags: fructose, modern diet, processed food, telomeres