Over-indulging at Christmas effectively takes hours off your life as the effects of too much eating, drinking and television add up, a Cambridge statistician has claimed.
Smoking two cigarettes, having a second or third alcoholic drink or watching two hours of television all have the equivalent effect of living for half an hour less each day, according to David Spiegelhalter, professor of public understanding of risk at Cambridge University.
The effects are likely to be felt more keenly at Christmas. Watching the 'Downton Abbey' special with a second glass of champagne would effectively knock an hour off a person's life. Prof Spiegelhalter also said such "microlifes" could be gained through healthy activities. A turkey dinner, instead of red meat, with five portions of vegetables, followed by a brisk walk, would add three hours.
The findings, using data from population studies, were published in the 'British Medical Journal' online.
However, it's not all bad news about food. For instance; eating Roquefort cheese could help to guard against cardiovascular disease despite its high fat and salt content, new research has suggested.
Scientists discovered that the French cheese, known for its mould and green veins, has specific anti-inflammatory properties.
It could provide clues to the 'French paradox' – why people who live in the country enjoy good health despite favouring a diet high in saturated fat.
Using new technology, researchers found the anti-inflammatory properties were at their peak when the cheese, one of the world's oldest, ripens.
The properties of the blue cheese, which is aged in caves near Toulouse in the south of France, were found to work best in acidic environments of the body, such as the lining of the stomach or the skin surface. Acidification is a common process accompanying inflammation such as in joints affected by arthritis.
Doctors at a Cambridge-based biotech company developed the technology, which helped to identify the anti-inflammatory factors.
The team from Lycotec, led by Dr Ivan Petyaev and Dr Yuriy Bashmakov, suggested the properties could be extracted to help in the fight against cardiovascular disease or for use in anti-ageing creams.
They detailed their work in a report, published in the journal 'Medical Hypotheses', titled: 'Could cheese be the missing piece in the French paradox puzzle?'
"The anti-inflammatory factors found in these cheeses could be extracted and used independently or as a part of today's pharmaceutical or beauty products," they wrote.
"Observations indicate that consumption of red wine alone cannot explain the paradox and perhaps some other constituents of the typical French diet could be responsible for reduced cardiovascular mortality.
"We hypothesise that cheese consumption, especially of moulded varieties, may contribute to the occurrence of the 'French paradox'." (© Daily Telegraph, London)