Poor Diets Linked to One in Five Deaths Worldwide

While smoking is a debilitating habit that can have a disastrous effect on your health, a new study has revealed that poor diets are responsible for more deaths around the world.

Poor diets can be defined as those low in fresh fruits and vegetables, seeds and nuts, yet high in sugar, salt, and trans fats. Furthermore, the study also suggested the mortality rate as a result of a poor diet was higher than that of both smoking and high blood pressure.

The study

The study, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, evaluated the consumption of food and nutrients across 195 countries. The study tracked food trends between 1990 and 2017 and it also tracked 15 dietary categories that included the consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, milk, seafood,  processed meats, sodium intake, trans fat intake and sugary-drinks.

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Their intention was to evaluate and compare the high consumption of healthy foods and nutrients with the high consumption of unhealthy foods and nutrients. They then used this data to find a correlation between poor dietary choice and food-related deaths and diseases. This was done by measuring health concerns linked to dietary choice, such as cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

The results

The study revealed that, in 2017, 10.9 million deaths were each linked to poor rotary choices. 10 million of these deaths were as a result of heart disease, 913 000 were cancer deaths and the remaining amount was as a result of type 2 diabetes.  When comparing the figures to other deaths, 8 million deaths were linked to smoking in 2017 and 10.4 million deaths were linked to high blood pressure.

Specifically, the study revealed that unhealthy diets caused 22% of all deaths among adults in 40 countries in 2017. These diets were low in whole grains and fruits, yet high in sodium. The country facing the highest number of diet-related deaths was Uzbekistan and it was followed by Afghanistan, the Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu.

The country with the lowest rate of diet-related deaths was Israel and it was followed by France, Spain, Japan and Andorra.

The study revealed that, in terms of dietary choices, individuals across the world were not eating enough nuts and whole grains. In fact, they were only consuming 12% of the recommended nut intake and 23% of the recommended whole grain intake.

The verdict on poor diets

The authors of the study believe that the key to healthy eating isn’t the limitation of unhealthy foods, but rather the increased consumption of healthy foods.

While traditionally all the conversation about a healthy diet has been focused on lowering the intake of unhealthy food, in this study, we have shown that, at the population level, a low intake of healthy foods is the more important factor, rather than the high intake of unhealthy foods, explained lead author Dr. Ashkan Afshin to CNN.

ageing | Longevity LIVE

As a result, Dr. Afshin and his colleagues believe that it is important for national policies to ensure the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially in low-income areas where processed foods is almost cheaper and more easily available than fresh produce. These sentiments were echoed by. Dr Christopher Murray, Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington, in a press release, “The paper also highlights the need for comprehensive interventions to promote the production, distribution, and consumption of healthy foods across all nations.”

However, despite its findings, the authors of the study do admit that the study had its limitations. Aside from notable gaps in diet-related data from lower-income nations, the authors also noted that they only examine over- or underweight. The authors may also overestimate the burden of disease attributable to dieting, as some of the deaths may have been credited with more than one dietary factor.

You can read more about the study here.

Want to know more?

While we all know what poor diets consist of, new diets healthy keep coming out, with each one promising greater results in a short period of time. Click here to find out the similarities shared amongst the world’s most successful and popular diets, so that you can then make informed decisions about their healthy eating habits.

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