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Can Eating Food Past Its Sell-By Date Really Shorten Your Lifespan?


Natural Foods A 2013 article in Business Insider suggests a food’s “sell by” date “doesn’t mean much in terms of sizing up a its safety. And professor of food science at Cornell University Robert Gravani, Ph.D. agrees, stating “most consumers don’t realize that [sell by dates are] really more about food quality than food safety.”

But a new study out of Harvard University suggests that while safety may not be a concern, per se, the cellular stress caused by eating aged food can actually cause you to age more quickly.

Researchers in the study say they have evidence that eating food after its sell-by date accelerates aging at a cellular level. They explain that human youthfulness fades as cells become damaged through byproducts of innumerable everyday metabolic functions. As the harm accumulates in cells, eventually the body is no longer able to cope, and the process culminates in death.

Organisms That Ate Old Food Had a Shorter Lifespan

The research team studied the effects of eating aged food on three organisms: mice, yeast and fruit flies. Mice were fed either three-year-old deer meat or 25-year-old deer meat. One batch of yeasts was fed young yeast cells, while the other half was fed old yeast cells. Likewise, half the fruit flies were fed young dead flies, and the other half was fed old dead flies.

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Results showed the organisms that were fed younger food had less cellular damage. The fruit flies and yeasts on the young diet lived 13 percent longer than those on the old diet. In addition, female mice on the young diet also lived 13 percent longer than those on the old diet, but the effect wasn’t seen in the male mice. (Coauthor Vadim Gladyshev attributes the gender difference to the limitations of the study.)

What does the relatively small but consistent effect on all three organisms tell us? It suggests that while diet plays a role in aging, the buildup of damage to cells likely arises from many other factors as well. This conclusion leads to the quandary of what to do about it. “So the question is, how do we slow down this process? How do we restructure cellular metabolism so that this damage accumulates at a slower rate?” Gladyshev asks. Although he has some theories, he doesn’t yet have the answers.

Why Aging Is Such a Key Issue

Because the aging process underlies so many diseases, it should be a focal area of research, points out Gladyshev. “Aging is the most important biological question. Even if we eliminate cancer, for example, the effect would be minor, because of all the other diseases of aging: diabetes, Alzheimer’s, sarcopenia, cardiovascular disease, and so on and so on,” he says. “But if we can learn how to slow down the aging process, we can deal with all of those diseases at once. We delay their appearance. That’s why it’s important to study these fundamental questions, to ask: what is aging?”

The study was published in Science Advances.

Need some insight on the inside your refrigerator? Check out this inforgraphic from The Thrillst.


Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.

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