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Overindulgences can shave years off a life

Published: Thursday, Jan. 10 2013 6:00 a.m. MST

While it's generally acknowledged that overindulging in particular foods is bad for overall health, researchers have calculated exactly how much time consuming different foods can shave off a life.

Eating red meat daily, for example, can shorten a life by 30 minutes, researchers reported in the journal BMJ last month. In fact, adults who ate an extra portion of red meat had a 13 percent greater chance of dying over the course of 20 years, the study found.

"David Spiegelhalter, a statistician at the University of Cambridge, used the idea of a 'microlife' — about a half hour of an adult over 35's life expectancy — to break down how much each activity affected our overall life expectancy," CBS News reported. "For example, one microlife is lost every time you smoke two cigarettes, just by being 11 pounds overweight, having a second and third alcoholic drink of the day, watching two hours of television and by eating a burger."

On a positive note, behaviors such as eating fruits and vegetables (four microlives) or working out 20 minutes a day (two microlives) can add half hours of life expectancy, Time reported.

The article appeared in a special holiday issue of BMJ, seeming to suggest that the potential microlives lost might particularly concern revelers over the holidays, the Los Angeles Times reported. "But before you panic: Spiegelhalter’s argument doesn't have much to do with holiday noshing per se — the paper noted explicitly that the microlife risks do not apply to single exposures (i.e., that blowout office party) and don’t take into account differences between individuals."

Rachel Lowry is a reporter intern for the Deseret News. She has lived in London and is an English graduate from Brigham Young University. Contact her at rachel.lowry@gmail.com or visit www.rachellowry.blogspot.com.

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