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This One Eating Habit Raises Your Risk of Early Death by 50%, Says Study

New research says eating too many restaurant-prepared meals can shorten your lifespan.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab
Friends eating a pasta dinner at a restaurant

A new study just published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics contains some troubling news for people who have become addicted to take-out over the course of the last year. According to the research, which analyzed 15 years of dietary behavior among more than 35,000 adults aged 20 and older, "frequent consumption" of restaurant-made meals is strongly linked to early death.

We've long known that a diet rich in decadent meals prepared in restaurant kitchens isn't nearly as healthy as one rooted in home-made alternatives, but this new study is unique in that it quantifies just how bad eating out—or ordering too much delivery—could truly be for the sake of your lifespan.

According to the researchers, who analyzed data provided by the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey that polled more than 35,000 adults between the years of 1999 and 2014, those who ate two restaurant meals (or more) every day were more likely to die of any cause by 49%. They also had a 65% greater chance of dying from cancer. Over the course of the survey, 2,781 of the respondents died—511 of them were from heart disease and 638 of them were from cancer.

"This is one of the first studies to quantify the association between eating out and mortality," notes Wei Bao, MD, PhD, a professor at the University of Iowa, in the study's official release. "Our findings, in line with previous studies, support that eating out frequently is associated with adverse health consequences and may inform future dietary guidelines to recommend reducing consumption of meals prepared away from home."

As we've reported time and again at Eat This, Not That!, eating healthy meals at many popular restaurants is truly difficult, given that so many of the meals are super high in calories and are overly packed with fatsodium, and sugar. Even some of the "healthy" meals are secretly bad for you. Take the "SkinnyLicious Asian Chicken Salad" from Cheesecake Factory. All told, it rings it at 590 calories—roughly the same as a Quarter Pounder Deluxe burger from McDonald's—and contains a staggering 2,700 milligrams of sodium along with 53 grams of carbs. For perspective, The American Heart Association recommends that no human being should consume more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium in a day.

Remember this the next time you're undecided on whether to make that home-cooked meal or to fire up your Seamless app. If you're eating out on a daily basis, you're not doing your body any favors. And for a full list of the secret ways that restaurants go to extra lengths to make their food unhealthier, check out these 15 Sneaky Ways Restaurants Add More Calories to Your Meals.

William Mayle
William Mayle is a UK-based writer who specializes in science, health, fitness, and other lifestyle topics. Read more
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