Medicine

Poor diets deadlier than smoking: These are the foods to cut

Poor diets deadlier than smoking: These are the foods to cut

The study found that the diets most closely linked to death had a significant lack of whole grains, fruits, nuts, seeds and omega-3 fatty acids. Then, they estimated the impact of poor diet on the risk of death from diseases that include heart disease, diabetes, and cancers. The study found that poor diets were behind 22-percent of all adult deaths in 2017 (10.9 million) - cardiovascular disease was the primary cause, with cancer and diabetes being next in line.

The research, published in British journal The Lancet, claims that around 11 million deaths per year - or one in five - are a result of a poor diet.

This number is equivalent to 11 million deaths per year, which is more than the number of fatalities linked to smoking and high blood pressure.

Which countries do best when it comes to diet?

In an accompanying editorial, Professor Nita Forouhi of the University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine said that despite the limitations, the study's findings "provide evidence to shift the focus, as the authors argue, from an emphasis on dietary restriction to promoting healthy food components in a global context".

Annual deaths related to diet have increased from 8 million in 1990, but the researchers said this was largely due to larger and older populations.

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The UK ranked 23rd (127 deaths per 100,000) above Ireland (24th) and Sweden (25th), and the U.S. ranked 43rd (171 deaths per 100,000) after Rwanda and Nigeria (41st and 42nd), China ranked 140th (350 deaths per 100,000 people), and India 118th (310 deaths per 100,000 people). It should be noted that there were data gaps for intake of key foods in some countries, so some estimates could be off.

Low intake of whole grains - below 125 grams per day - was the leading dietary risk factor for death and disease in India, the US, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Russia, Egypt, Germany, Iran, and Turkey.

The Mediterranean pattern of eating is among the healthiest in the world.

Lead scientist Dr Ashkan Afshin, from the University of Washington, said: "Poor diet is an equal-opportunity killer".

It found that on average, reaching the "five-a-day" fruit and vegetable servings advocated by doctors cost just two per cent of household income in rich nations, but more than a half of household income in poorer ones.

They conclude that improving diet is urgent and requires the active collaboration of several actors throughout the food system and policies that target multiple sectors of the food system. The researchers said that the idea of increasing the consumption of a healthy diet needs to be added to policy debates.


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