Published: Sat, April 06, 2019
Medical | By Mark Scott

Bad Diets Are Responsible For More Deaths Than Smoking, Global Study Finds

Bad Diets Are Responsible For More Deaths Than Smoking, Global Study Finds

People in nearly every region of the world could benefit from changing their diets to ensure they eat the optimal amounts of various foods and nutrients, according to the Global Burden of Disease study.

One in five deaths worldwide in 2017 were linked to people eating poor diets high in sugar, salt and processed meat that contributed to heart disease, cancer and diabetes, a global study has found.

It found that overall, an estimated 11 million deaths in 2017 were attributable to poor diet, with diets high in sodium, low in whole grains and low in fruit together accounting for more than 50% of these deaths. "People - independent of age, gender, country of residence and socioeconomic status - to some extent are affected by poor dietary habits", says study co-author Dr. Ashkan Afshin, an assistant professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

According to a almost three-decade long study, poor diet is killing more people worldwide than cigarettes or high blood pressure.

The researchers also found that diets high in sodium, and low in whole grains and fruits accounted for over half of diet-related deaths globally.

"Poor diet is an equal opportunity killer", said Dr Afshin.

He added: "We are highlighting the importance of low consumption of healthy foods as compared to the greater consumption of unhealthy foods".

The countries with the fewest diet-related deaths were Israel, Spain, and France, where people tend to follow a Mediterranean-style diet.

"UK guidelines advise that we should be eating plenty of fruit and vegetables as well as beans, lentils, fish and wholegrains". As the Trump administration and USA lawmakers debate whether able-bodied people who don't work should be entitled to public food assistance, it's clear that many people around the globe struggle to afford healthy foods.

In contrast, the average daily consumption of nuts and seeds is just 3 grams, which is far below the recommended 21 grams.

These included diets low in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, milk, fiber, calcium, seafood omega-3 fatty acids, polyunsaturated fats, and diets high in red meat, processed meat, sugar-sweetened beverages, trans fatty acids, and sodium.

For example, not eating enough whole grains was the leading dietary risk factor in several countries, including the United States.

The UK ranked 23rd, with 127 diet-related deaths per 100,000 and the U.S. was 43rd with 171.

The findings of the study stress on the pressing need for coordinated global efforts to improve diet.

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