Poor Diet Causes More Deaths Than Smoking, Study Reveals

Alicia Farmer
April 6, 2019

Still, they conclude that people in nearly every corner for the world could benefit from rebalancing their diets and consuming more healthy foods and less unhealthy foods. The trends in consumption of 15 dietary factors were tracked in roughly 195 countries from 1990 to 2017 during the study. They also noted that in 2017, more deaths were caused by diets too low in whole grains, fruits, nuts and seeds, than by diets containing high levels of foods such as trans fats, processed meats and sugary drinks. Consider a recent report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which notes: "Worldwide, malnutrition costs $3.5 trillion annually, with overweight- and obesity-related noncommunicable diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, adding $2 trillion".

Annual deaths related to diet have increased from eight million in 1990, but the researchers said this was largely due to increases in populations and populations ageing.

Unhealthy diets are responsible for more deaths across the globe than smoking, a major new study has concluded.

What's driving this? As a planet we don't eat enough healthy foods including whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables.

The largest number of deaths is recorded in China and India, with millions of diet-related deaths per year (over 3 million and 1 million respectively), then Russian Federation with 550,000.

"We simply can't all adopt a healthy diet under the current global agriculture system", says study co-author Evan Fraser, director of the Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph.

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"UK guidelines advise that we should be eating plenty of fruit and vegetables as well as beans, lentils, fish and wholegrains".

Lead scientist Dr Ashkan Afshin, from the University of Washington, US, said eating too many fatty and sugary foods, while avoiding healthier options, affects people from all walks of life.

But on average we consume only 3 grams of nuts and seeds a day versus the recommended 21 grams.

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

The study, published in The Lancet, also found low intake of whole grains and fruits and high consumption of salt accounted for more than half. The U.S. ranked 43rd with a rate of 171 deaths per 100,000, while the United Kingdom ranked 23rd and India ranked 118th.

"This study provides a comprehensive picture of the potential impact of suboptimal diet on NCD mortality and morbidity, highlighting the need for improving diet across nations", the researchers wrote in their study.

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