Is a Hot Dog a Sandwich?

Shandra Martinez

| 3 min read

Americans know a thing or two about hot dogs. They’re a staple at summer baseball parks and concession stands across the nation. They’rewhat's on the grill in backyard cookouts, and they’re a favorite meal of the pint-sized crowd. But is a hot dog really a sandwich - and can it take minutes off your life?
Here’s what we know about the first question: There continues to be a heated debate on social media about whether a hot dog should be considered a sandwich. At its most basic, it’s meat served between bread, so it’s a sandwich - right? Not so fast, say hot dog enthusiasts. They argue a hot dog should be classified as its own unique food item and not shuffled into the sandwich category.
And there are lots of types of hot dogs that can fall into this category: regular, cheese-filled, bun-length, the tiny cocktail dogs and the international incarnations like German wieners. No matter what type you like, though, health research shows they should be enjoyed in moderation.

Study of 5,800 foods

A study from the University of Michigan got really specific when it came to hot dogs. It showed that certain foods can shorten - or lengthen - your lifespan. It looked at 5,800 foods and paired them with a specific minute-mark for a longer or shorter life span to drive home the point. The results have been a conversation-starter when it comes to healthy eating. The study has people thinking about how certain foods can play a role in health and a person’s longevity.
Hot dogs became a poster child for this study, with the research showing that eating a hot dog can reduce your lifespan by 36 minutes. This is in stark contrast to the ever-popular peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which researchers said could add 33 minutes to your lifespan. The protein and good fats in the peanut butter put it squarely on the good side of the list, but why is the study dissing on hot dogs?
It’s because the study showed the biggest category for life-shortening foods were red meat and nitrate-heavy processed meats. Hot dogs fall squarely into that last category.

What are lifespan minutes?

Shanthi Appelö, a registered dietitian for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, said in A Healthier Michigan podcast that studies like the one produced by U-M really underscore how consistently healthy behaviors can add up to making a positive difference in how long we live. Using specific lifespan minutes linked to specific foods - like hot dogs - is an attention-catching way to drive home healthy messages. It gets people talking and it may prod them to make healthier decisions when it comes to their diet.
“We’ve heard time and time again that eating processed meats and having too much saturated fat, consuming too much sodium, all these things lead to a shorter lifespan or contribute to a shorter lifespan maybe because it increases our risk for cancers, certain diseases, things like that,” Appelö said. “So it’s just putting something into things that we understand, I think.”

Why moderation is important

Moderation is key when it comes to less-than-healthy foods, she said. So enjoying a hot dog or two the next time you’re at a ballpark or a backyard party likely won’t make a dent in your lifespan. But studies like this one are all about educating people to the consequences bad diets can have.
“We have family history, genetics play a huge component into certain disease states. We also have so many different needs as individuals when it comes to different nutrients and how different nutrients affect us,” Appelö said. “But I do like this idea of understanding that these small things, if you’re consistently consuming hot dogs like one a day for the rest of your life, that definitely is going to have a big impact.”
Photo credit: Getty Images

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
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