Unhealthy Diet Is Leading Risk Factor for Death Globally, Study Finds

Serving in Jerusalem restaurant including falafel hummus and Israeli salad a typically Israeli dish

Serving in Jerusalem restaurant including falafel hummus and Israeli salad a typically Israeli dish

Poor diet is the world's deadliest health risk, accounting for a fifth of all deaths, a study has shown.

Of the 11 million deaths attributed to poor diet, by far the largest killer was cardiovascular disease, which is often caused or worsened by obesity.

The study says, "The countries with the lowest rates of diet-related deaths were Israel (89 deaths per 100,000 people), France, Spain, Japan, and Andorra".

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.

Poor diet is associated with 1 in 5 deaths worldwide, according to a new, large study. Variations in poor diets aside, the study points toward three dietary factors that greatly contributed toward diet-related death and DALYs: high sodium intake, low whole grains consumption, and low amounts of fruit in one's diet.

Lack of those foods is a more significant predictor of diet-related illness and death than over-consumption of sugar and red meat, which gets most of the dietary attention.

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In 2017, more deaths were caused by diets with too low amounts of foods such as whole grains, fruit, nuts and seeds than by diets with high levels of foods like trans fats, sugary drinks, and high levels of red and processed meats.

"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. "It's important both policy makers and the food industry work together to be part of the solution to increase the consumption of not only fruits and vegetables but also whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes". The United States ranked 43rd, Britain 23rd, China 140th and India 118th.

Each of these factors accounted for more than 2% of all deaths globally.

For example, the world on average consumes more than 10 times the recommended amount of sugar-sweetened beverages, and 86 percent more sodium per person than is considered safe. "I think it's important to focus on, not only what to remove - too much sugar; processed foods; junk; fast foods - but focus on what to add". Improving diets won't be easy: A range of initiatives may be needed, including nutrition education and increased access to healthy foods, as well as rethinking agricultural production.

On average, diets included only 12% of the recommended daily intake of 25g of nuts and seeds and 23% of the recommended daily intake of 126g of whole grains. It is the most comprehensive worldwide observational epidemiological study.

So what counts as a good diet?

"For instance, fruits and vegetables should make up 80 percent of your diet".

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