Aging Diet: Stop Eating Foods That Can Cause Wrinkles And Shorten Your Life

Our diet determines our health, vitality, and the risk of certain diseases. But some people don’t know that food can also slow down–and speed up–aging. “Can you look older because you’re eating [badly]?” asks Dr. Timothy Harlan. “Absolutely.”

Certain foods can create wrinkles on your face, making you look older. Others significantly increase your risk of death, and some even shrink the chromosomes that control aging. If you want to extend your life, limit these foods. At best, they make you look older, and at worst, they shorten your life.

Try Not To Char Your Grilled Meat

When meats are charred with high heat, they receive toxins. According to the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, grill heat creates advanced glycation end products (conveniently shortened to AGEs). These AGEs accelerate aging by inflaming the body.

Charred minced meat kebabs cook on a grill.
Hoberman Collection/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Hoberman Collection/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Study author Dr. Jaime Uribarri says that too many AGEs may lead to diabetes and chronic kidney disease. The good news? Black pepper can reduce the amount of these carcinogenic compounds, say researchers at Kansas University. Add some black pepper and turn down the grill temperature.

Steer Clear Of White Sugar

White sugar, also called refined sugar, ages the body in many ways. According to Dr. Andrew Nish of UnityPoint Health, fructose reacts with protein that ages us from the inside-out. It’s like a banana that goes brown, he says, except within the body.

A close-up shows wrinkles around a man's eye.

As a result, people who eat sugar can develop more wrinkles, dark spots, and acne. Over time, the body metabolizes sugar more slowly. It influences your insulin levels to prompt diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Sugar even slows down the human growth hormone, says endocrinologist Sophie Chan.

Artificial Sweeteners Aren’t Much Healthier Than Sugar

Despite having zero calories, artificial sweeteners come with a host of health risks. For one, it’s not good for the skin. Dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe says that artificial sweeteners increase glucose in the blood. In turn, this creates more acne, rashes, and wrinkles that could make you look older.

Packets of Splenda and Equal sit in plastic containers.
Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images
Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images

Artificial sweeteners also create the same risks as sugar. During a 2009 study, diet soda drinkers had a higher chance of developing metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Researchers suspect that artificial sweeteners increase sugar cravings, and we all know how sugar can age people.

High-Fat Milk Can Age You

Low-fat milk has many health benefits, but the same cannot be said for high-fat dairy. In January 2020, scientists at Brigham Young University compared the fat content in milk. High-fat milk accelerated aging, while low-fat milk reduced aging by 4.5 years.

Containers of reduced fat and whole fat milk are stacked in a refrigerator.
Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images
Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images

According to the researchers, whole milk shrinks the endcaps of chromosomes called telomeres. As people grow older, their telomeres shorten. In fact, for every 1% of additional fat, the telomeres shrank further. If you want to extend your life, opt for nonfat or low-fat milk.

The Price Of Pepperoni Pizza

Pizza can fit into a healthy diet, but it depends on the type of pizza you get. Specifically, skip the pepperoni. Pepperoni contains high sodium and nitrate preservatives, both of which contribute to aging, according to registered dietitian and nutritionist Sarah-Jane Bedwell.

A restaurant employee sprinkles parmesan onto slices of pepperoni pizza.
Seth McConnell/The Denver Post via Getty Images
Seth McConnell/The Denver Post via Getty Images

According to Aging and Disease, nitrates are chemicals that preserve meat. When they react with stomach acid, they become a carcinogenic compound. Naturally-occurring nitrates in vegetables do not pose the same risk. If you swap pepperoni for vegetables, your pizza won’t accelerate aging.

How Bagels Can Weaken Your Cells

Foods with a high glycemic index, including bagels, can age your skin. Dermatologist Whitney Bowe says that the sugar in bagels can cause glycation. Glycation is when sugar molecules stick to skin cells and weaken them. By eating bagels, you consume more sugar and get more wrinkles.

A bag of bagels are on the street of New York.
Ben Gabbe/Getty Images
Ben Gabbe/Getty Images

That said, you can incorporate bagels into an anti-aging diet, says registered dietitian Lauren Smith. Whole-grain bagels have fewer sugars and more fiber, which won’t age your skin. Sweet bagels, such as cinnamon raisin, will age your body more than non-sugary bagels.

The Secret Dangers Of Salt

It’s well-known that sodium can raise blood pressure and lead to diseases. But it also impacts cell aging directly. In 2014, researchers found that sodium shortens cell telomeres and accelerates aging. Even young adults and teenagers aged more quickly when they consumed more salt.

An elderly woman folds her hands on her lap.

The opposite is true, too. According to 2016 research by the American Physiological Society, the effects of sodium worsen as you age. In other words, aging heightens sodium symptoms, and sodium speeds aging. It’s an awful cycle that can make you appear older over time.

Soda Ages You As Much As Smoking

Because soda is primarily liquid sugar, it can age your body by up to two years. In the American Journal of Public Health, a study reported that soda-drinkers have shorter telomeres, which control age in the body. Just 20 ounces increase cell age by 4.6 years, the same amount as smoking.

A photo shows the Pepsi logo on soda bottle caps.
Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

But that’s not all. Research by the American Public Health Association correlated soda to a higher risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Fortunately, this only happened with sugary, bubbly soda, not diet soda.

Bread Can Help–But Only Whole Grain Bread

There’s no need to fear bread; research in Nutrients reports that eating bread is essential to staying youthful and healthy. But whole grain supplies far more benefits. The refining process of white bread strips away all of the B vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals from wheat bread.

A man creates open a loaf of white bread.
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

White bread is a high-glycemic food which, according to a study in Cell Transplantation, speeds up the aging process. They create inflammation in the body, which not only endangers your health but also wrinkles the skin.

French Fries Are Pro-Inflammatory

As with all fried foods, French fries carry harmful trans fats and pro-inflammatories. Research in the American Journal of Nutrition followed over 4,400 participants and found the dangers of fries. People who ate French fries at least twice a week were more likely to die early.

Potatoes are deep fried to make French fries.
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BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

At the very least, fries could age you visibly. The high temperature of frying oil releases free radicals that accelerate the aging process. It cross-links with skin DNA to make it saggy. You can blame fries’ salt and fat for its harmful effects.

Why Margarine Is Linked To An Early Death

As the debate between margarine and butter rages on, one thing is for sure: margarine contains harmful hydrogenated oils. These oils bring trans fatty acids into the body. Over time, this can increase your risk of heart disease and early death, says a study in Epidemiology.

Containers of margarine are stacked in a refrigerator.
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However, Harvard Health Publishing notes that current margarine has fewer hydrogenated oils than it did two decades ago. Still, you may want to limit margarine, or else your face could age. A 2015 animal study linked trans fats to visible skin damage.

White Rice Cakes Contain Arsenic

In 2016, the National Food Agency in Sweden released some worrying news. Their study revealed that many rice cakes contain arsenic. Usually, boiling rice in water removes arsenic, but rice cakes are made differently. According to the Agency Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, arsenic can increase aging over time.

White rice cakes are served on a blue plate with mayonnaise.
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

Does the arsenic in rice cakes pose a health threat? If you eat them sparingly, no. The British Dietetic Association emphasizes that the amount of arsenic in rice cakes is small, and you don’t need to worry about toxicity. Just don’t eat them all the time.

The Hot Take On Hot Dogs

Although hot dogs are a barbecue favorite, they are not a health expert favorite. Like all processed meats, hot dogs are linked to the risk of many diseases. In February 2020, a study by Northwestern University correlated processed meats with heart disease. For every two servings of hot dogs per week, participants’ risk of early death rose 3%.

Hot dogs spin on a grill in 7-Eleven.
Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images
Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images

On top of that, researchers are concerned about the preservatives in hot dogs, according to Time. One of the preservatives, nitrates, converts into a type of salt in the body. These can cause inflammation and accelerate aging.

The Concerns About Energy Drinks

Health experts have been raising concerns over energy drinks, especially in older adults. Because energy drink companies don’t release their ingredients, we don’t know what you’re putting in your body. And the high amount of caffeine–some with 500 mg–can have detrimental effects.

Two red bull cans are seen on a supermarket shelf.
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loannis Alexopoulos/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

According to Dr. Sohyun Park, a CDC epidemiologist, highly-concentrated caffeine can prompt heart problems. It raises blood pressure and stresses the heart. In older adults, energy drinks can worsen underlying medical conditions. Try not to rely on these highly-caffeinated beverages, or it could raise your risk of disease.

If You Want Wrinkles, Eat Spicy Foods

Spicy foods can age your skin over time. They dilute your skin’s blood vessels, says Dr. Ariel Ostad of the American Academy of Dermatology. Over time, this can make your skin wrinkle and look puffy, especially in older adults.

An elderly woman holds a mug of coffee.

Spicy chilis can also age your mind. Recent research from the University of South Australia linked spice to the onset of dementia. Both fresh and dry chilis increased cognitive decline in older adults. However, you don’t have to avoid spice entirely. Spicy foods can lower your blood pressure and manage body weight in moderation.

Microwaving Is Not The Safest Cooking Method

Microwave meals can age your body, and not just because of its fat content. Rick Hay, anti-aging food and fitness nutritionist, worries about the carcinogenic toxins in the plastic containers. According to him, these toxins leak into the food while microwaving. They can damage your digestive system, mood, blood pressure, and heart health.

A microwave cooks a tray of sweet potatoes and eggplant.
Matt McClain for the Washington Post
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Even if you remove the food from the container, it still has a high salt content. “Sodium contributes to water retention and an overall ‘puffy,’ aged appearance,” says registered dietitian Kayleen St. John. It also contributes to chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease.

How Red Meat Ages You Biologically

Red meat, especially processed meat, is linked with several health problems. After studying red meat consumption for decades, Harvard researchers linked the meat to early death in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Red meat eaters were more likely to get heart disease and cancer.

Dried red meat sits in a bamboo basket.
Frank Bienewald/LightRocket via Getty Images
Frank Bienewald/LightRocket via Getty Images

In 2016, scientists from the University of Glasgow found that red meat (along with a poor diet) ages people more quickly. The high phosphate levels contributed to biological aging in the cells. You can still eat red meat, but try to limit your consumption to a couple of times per week.

Lemonade Ages Your Teeth

Lemonade and lemon water can do wonders for your skin, so what does it age? Your teeth. Research in General Dentistry examined how citrus drinks impact your teeth. Lemonade harmed teeth more than any other drink or juice. It stained, decayed, and eroded participants’ teeth.

A pitcher holds fresh lemonade and a wooden spoon.
Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post via Getty Images
Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post via Getty Images

High-sugar lemonades are even worse. They build up plaque, which erodes over time and results in yellow, gross teeth. If you don’t keep up oral hygiene, lemonade harms your teeth more, says Mint Dental Care. Drinking lemonade through a straw can relieve these effects.

Limiting Your Lifespan With Potato Chips

Although many people understand that potato chips aren’t healthy, some underestimate how bad chips really are. An eight-year-long cohort study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition linked chips to a higher mortality rate. Chip-eaters were more likely to die young than unfried potato-eaters.

Bags of Lays potato chips sit on a grocery store shelf.
Alex Tai/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Alex Tai/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Why does this happen? According to registered dietitian Lisa Hayim, the trans fat in potato chips stimulate inflammation. Specifically, it kickstarts interleukin 6, an inflammation marker that damages cells and impairs the immune system. In other words, chips age you by degrading your cells over time.

Check The Nutrition Label For Trans Fats

Trans fats are one of the worst kinds of fats. They raise your “bad” cholesterol levels, LDL cholesterol, which inflames the body. As a result, trans fats increase your risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and heart conditions, according to neurologist Dr. Gathline Etienne. All could lead to a heightened risk of early death.

Trans fats are labeled on a box of Hostess Brownie Bites.
Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

New data suggests that trans fats age your brain, too. According to research in PLoS One, eating trans fats can harm memory over time, even in younger adults. Over time, this cognitive decline can result in dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Why Happy Hour Isn’t So Happy

Many people underestimate how dramatically adult drinks can age you. According to one study in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, frequent drinkers are 33% more likely to have grey rings around their eyes. Usually, that condition doesn’t appear until your 60s.

A woman holds up a wine glass while video calling a friend.
NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP via Getty Images
NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP via Getty Images

Along with the many health conditions related to happy hour, adult drinks can damage your skin. Physician Carol Ann Goodman says that they dehydrate and dilate blood vessels. In the short term, that can redden peoples’ faces. In the long term, it creates visible veins on the face and aggravates skin conditions.

The Internal And External Effects Of Bacon

Although some people think that bacon is a fresh meat, it isn’t. Registered dietitian Sonya Angelone says that it is processed red meat. The World Health Organization has classified bacon as a group one carcinogen that can prompt cancers such as colon and stomach cancer.

A close-up shows a package of Oscar Mayer bacon.
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Angelone adds that bacon is preserved with nitrates, a type of salt. Nitrates constrict blood vessels and raise blood pressure. Not only does this harm your health, but it could also wrinkle your skin over time. Bacon ages you internally and externally.

Saturated Fats Lead To Over-Saturated Skin

Saturated fats are not as bad for the heart and body as trans fats. However, you should still eat them in moderation. Research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that high saturated fat results in more wrinkles on the skin. Unlike trans fat, it did not raise the risk of heart conditions.

A Burger King
PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP via Getty Images
PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP via Getty Images

Foods that contain high levels of saturated fat, including butter, promote aging skin. According to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, they create AGEs in the body. AGEs worsen not only the skin but also age-related chronic diseases such as diabetes.

The More Fried Foods You Order, The Shorter Your Life Becomes

To avoid an early death, refuse fried foods. In 2019, a study in The BMJ found that fried foods raise the risk of death, especially through heart disease. Women who ate fried chicken daily were 13% more likely to die early.

A close-up shows cut fried chicken thighs.
Jeff Gritchen/Orange County Register via Getty Images
Jeff Gritchen/Orange County Register via Getty Images

The reason, according to registered dietitian Deborah Orlick Levy, is the corn oil. Many restaurant foods are fried in corn oil that releases free radicals at high temperatures. The result is more inflammation, face wrinkles, high blood pressure, and insulin unbalance. Add the sodium from fried foods, and you have a worse health hazard.

Try Not To Eat High Fructose Corn Syrup

Although all sugars can harm your body, high fructose corn syrup is the worst. A study by the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology found that high fructose corn syrup speeds up aging, especially in the skin. It raises your risk of many conditions; even young people who eat corn syrup have a higher risk of disease, says Nutrition & Diabetes.

Liquid high fructose corn syrup is in a spoon.
Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

According to registered dietitian Deborah Orlick Levy, high fructose corn syrup damages collagen and elastin in the skin. The result is more wrinkles, sagging, and grey areas. Even if you don’t receive health detriments from high fructose corn syrup, you could appear older.