Detrimental Diets Could be Global’s Leading Cause of Death

Key Takeaways:

  • Poor eating habits and low-quality diets are contributing to higher mortality rates globally than smoking or high blood pressure, attributing to nearly 22% of adult fatalities in 2017.
  • Diseases and conditions such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes largely stem from misnutrition. Therefore, nutrition is not just about limiting junk food but also about prioritizing the consumption of essential food groups.
  • Diets high in sodium, but lacking in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds are particularly associated with higher death rates. Minimizing processed foods and consuming more plant-based, whole foods could be crucial to healthier living.
  • An overall diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains offers substantial evidence in promoting heart health, according to a review led by Dr. Andrew Freeman.
  • Unhealthy diets negatively impact not just mortality rates but also the quality of life. Unbalanced diets accounted for 255 million disability-adjusted life years in 2017, which includes both overall life years lost and time lived with a disability.

Poor eating habits are causing a decline in global health, leading to a higher mortality rate than smoking or high blood pressure, according to some extensive research studies.

The research surveyed approximately 200 countries and found that low-quality diets contributed to nearly 11 million deaths on a global scale in 2017. This equates to 22% of fatalities among adults that year.

Previous Research on Mortality Causes

Prior studies associated tobacco use to 8 million deaths per year globally and high blood pressure to slightly above 10 million deaths. However, it is not unexpected that diet plays such a crucial role, said the lead researcher.

Misnutrition is a key contributor to numerous health conditions – from high blood pressure to type 2 diabetes. Conclusively, it’s not merely a case of individuals consuming an excess of junk food; it’s also about what you ought to be eating.

Eating Habits and Mortality Rates

The study highlights some dietary habits with particularly strong associations to higher death rates. These include diets rich in sodium, and those lacking in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and nuts and seeds.

According to the lead researcher, this all reinforces the commonly heard advice about diet: Minimize processed foods and consume more “whole” plant-based foods.

Are We Missing Out On Essential Foods?

Dr. Andrew Freeman, who heads cardiovascular prevention and wellness at a prominent Denver health institute, whilst not involved in the study, agrees with the sentiment. If we include more whole, plant-based foods in our diets, it could effectively eliminate some of the detrimental elements.”

Freeman recently led a review that investigated the hype around certain foods claimed to have cardiovascular benefits. The research concluded that not miracle foods, but an overall diet rich in fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, and fiber-rich whole grains holds the most substantial evidence of promoting heart health.

Dietary Intakes Across Multiple Countries

For the new research, data from published nutrition surveys was used to examine typical dietary intakes across 195 countries. Furthermore, they analyzed published studies on the correlation between different dietary factors and disease risks.

As expected, the typical diet varied across regions. For instance, people in the United States and Canada had the highest consumption of processed meats and trans fats from packaged foods.

However, nearly every global region had excessive consumption of sugary drinks and sodium. Meanwhile, healthy foods were notably lacking worldwide with few exceptions: People in Central Asia generally consumed an adequate amount of vegetables, while people in parts of Latin America, Africa, and South Asia usually consumed ample legumes.

The Impact of Unbalanced Diets

Overall, unbalanced diets posed a universal health threat. Oceania and East Asia had the highest proportion of diet-related heart disease deaths, for example. Diet-related fatalities from type 2 diabetes complications were highest in the United States and Canada.

Low-quality diets did not only affect mortality rates but also quality of life. In 2017, poor diets contributed to 255 million disability-adjusted life years which encompass overall life years lost, plus time lived with a disability.

The findings suggest that diet decisions profoundly impact an individual’s longevity and well-being. However, it’s not just individuals who ought to be concerned about this:

Society, Healthcare Systems, and Policymakers

These groups as a whole need to promote healthy whole foods over processed foods, red meat, and butter. It’s never too late to make smart diet changes. However, ideally, we should not wait until diseases have developed to start adopting healthier eating habits.

More information

The American Heart Association provides advice on healthy eating.

Susan Levin

Hello, wellness enthusiasts! I'm Dr. Susan Levin, and while I may share a name with a certain American film producer, our domains couldn’t be more different! My silver screen is the world of medical science, and I have a deep-rooted passion for guiding individuals on their health journeys.Born and raised amidst the picturesque landscapes of Great Britain, I've also called the vibrant state of New Jersey my home for a significant chapter of my life. Both places have contributed to my understanding of health, community, and the diverse lifestyles that shape our well-being.With an M.D. in hand and a wealth of knowledge from years of practice, my goal on is to translate complex medical jargon into understandable, actionable advice for our readers. From the latest health trends to tried-and-true practices, I aim to be your reliable source for all things health and wellness.Join me as we unravel the intricacies of the human body and mind, ensuring that your health journey is informed, inspired, and most importantly, effective.
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