Published: Sun, April 07, 2019
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Poor diet linked to 1 in 5 deaths globally

Poor diet linked to 1 in 5 deaths globally

These numbers included 10 million deaths from cardiovascular disease, 913,000 cancer deaths, and nearly 339,000 deaths from type 2 diabetes.

The lead author of the study, Dr Ashkan Afshin explains: "Generally in real life people do substitution". "This should be a wake-up call for the world".

According to a huge study that involved more than 130 scientists across 40 countries, poor diets were responsible for 22% of all adult deaths in 2017.

The IHME study on dietary risks finds that in southern sub-Saharan Africa, diets low in fruits were the number one reason for diet-related deaths. The United States ranked 43rd, while Britain was 23rd, China 140th and India 118th.

But as cuisine and culinary attiudes vary across the world, different countries have different rates of diet related deaths.

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At the other end of the spectrum, Uzbekistan received the unwanted title of the country with the highest rate of diet-related deaths (892 deaths per 100,000 people), followed by Afghanistan, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu. These diets were high in sodium, low in whole grains, and low in fruit. "We are what we eat and risks affect people across a range of demographics, including age, gender, and economic status".

It also noted the prohibitive costs of the recommended amounts of fruit and vegetables per person per household, which in low-income countries stood at 52 percent of household income, leading to the conclusion that there's room for policy intervention across national and global food systems. For instance, on average, the world only ate 12% of the recommended amount of nuts and seeds.

"Limitations notwithstanding, the current GBD 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", said Prof. That's an important message, Afshin says, since lots of health advice hinges on cutting out junk food, rather than emphasising the nourishing foods people should be adding to their plates instead. "This evidence largely endorses a case for moving from nutrient-based to food based guidelines", said Professor Nita G Forouhi, Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine, UK.

Previous studies have shown that eating a high-quality plant-based diet can reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease, but this is the first to look at how positive or negative changes in diet may influence a person's risk of dying - no matter where they started. The real problem is not the junk food we eat, but the lack of nutritious food in our diet.

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