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The Influence of Dietary Choices on Lifespan

It is commonly held that one’s diet is the key to maintaining a healthy and long-lasting life. Though partially true, maintaining such a life is dependent on numerous factors - diet being one of the most prominent. Not only does a healthy diet help sustain a healthy lifestyle, but it also contributes to longevity, as some studies have found. Eating healthier foods could mean 6 or 10 more years. On the other hand, eating unhealthy foods such as junk food can possibly shorten your life. Although these truths are applicable to people of a range of ages, the extent to which they are accurate varies with age.



Influence on Toddlers


Unlike teenagers and adults, children’s dietary choices do not necessarily affect the length of their lifespan to an extreme extent. Instead, toddlers’ diets affect their mood, behaviors, and emotional well-being. In reality, the child’s quality of life is more at stake than the length of their life. According to an online source, unhealthy diets can hinder a child’s academic performance and create behavioral patterns that prove to be problems at home and school. Since a child’s brain has yet to develop, the child must receive the proper nutrients in order to maintain healthy emotional well-being and avoid behavioral problems. In essence, dietary choices have bigger effects on a child’s development, both behavioral and physical, rather than the span of their adulthood. For instance, a child who is not receiving the recommended amount of nutrients may begin to display anxiety, depression, and/or impaired cognitive abilities. If unhealthy dietary choices persist through teenagehood, long-term effects become more probable and extreme; the older that a person gets, the bigger of an influence on their life that their dietary choices possess. Thus, although diet can not affect a toddler’s lifespan immediately, the dangers of an unhealthy diet grow exponentially with time.

Image is courtesy of GAIN global alliance for improved nutrition.


Influence on Teenagers


On the other hand, teenagers face lifespan-related consequences of unhealthy dietary choices. For instance, a study has found that eating one hot dog can deprive a person of 36 minutes of a healthy life. That is not to say that teenagers are to eschew foods such as hotdogs altogether but to point out the impact of eating habits on a young individual. The good news is that the study also found that eating 20 grams of nuts could possibly add 25 minutes to one’s life. This means that a balanced diet can reduce the risk of lifespan reduction and disease. The implications of such findings indicate that one’s diet is critical not only for longevity but also for the quality of life.

Teenagers, similar to toddlers, have brains that have yet to completely mature, specifically an undeveloped prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is in charge of impulsive decision making among other things. If the brain does not receive the proper nutrients, then teenagers can end up with impaired cognitive abilities and decision-making skills. This can lead to a multitude of dangerous situations. For example, a teenager may react exceedingly impulsively in an unexpected situation, ergo increasing the risk of hazardous altercations. This may occur while driving, during arguments, etc. This leads to an unhealthy lifestyle in which teenagers are predisposed to unhealthy habits.

These effects may track into adulthood if dietary habits remain. One’s height may be stunted or impaired if one did not receive an adequate amount of nutrients as a teenager. Their cognitive abilities may be lacking, and their emotional well-being may be unstable. If, however, a teenager maintains a healthy diet throughout their teenagehood, it is likely that they will continue to do so as an adult, leading to long-term benefits. This issue thus becomes critical as establishing healthy habits early on can mean a significant increase in lifespan and quality of life. One study found that a healthy diet can lead to an increase of almost ten years.

Healthy diets promote better learning, healthy physical changes, growth, and stable emotional well-being. Getting the necessary amount of nutrients means that teenagers have the energy and fuel that they need to undergo material changes during their growth. Puberty, a biological process during which teenagers undergo physical changes to become sexually mature, can not usually occur without an adequate diet. At the same time, healthy eating habits can help reduce risks of/alleviate anxiety, acne, and the adverse effects of stress. Teenagehood is a stressful time, so the more that this stress can be alleviated, the better for the teenager’s overall well-being and mental health. A healthy diet can also lead to a feeling of empowerment that comes with the stability of one’s moods. Not to mention, one’s body is physically more muscular and in shape when one sustains healthy eating habits.

Image is courtesy of Premier Dentistry of Eagle.


Hence, not only is a teenager’s lifespan shortened by bad dietary choices, but their quality of life also worsens. When healthy eating habits are established, the opposite effects emerge, and teenagers’ growth is improved rather than stunted.


Influence on Adults


Adults are by far affected the most by their dietary choices. Though their brains are fully developed, adults display a higher risk of disease and sickness. This time their growth is not stunted, but their quality of life is impaired. A predisposition to illness coupled with unhealthy eating habits and a physically weaker body, can lead to dramatic changes in an adult’s overall wellbeing. Not only does their quality of life plummet, but their lifespan shortens. The amount by which their lifespan decreases is dependent on the extent of their eating habits. Of course, other factors such as exercising frequency also contribute to their quality of life and overall health.


Image is courtesy of BetterUp


If healthy eating habits have been established, then some studies have found that an adult can live up to six or seven more years. Their physical strength, emotional stability, cognitive abilities, and mental health would all also be bolstered.


Maintaining a Balance


Ultimately, the goal for people of all ages is to maintain a healthy balance that both promotes growth and allows for a flexible diet. As with all things in life, finding this balance can be hard. However, it is important to realize and comprehend that abandoning this balance can result in severe long-term consequences down the line. Hence, it is critical that one maintains a healthy diet that enables them to both remain emotionally and mentaly stable and to be physically strong.



Article author: Scarlett Affa

Article editors: Sherilyn Wen, Stephanie Sahadeo