Poor Diet Kills More People Than Smoking

Poor Diet Kills More People Than Smoking

"Adoption of diets emphasising soy foods, beans and other healthy plant sources of protein will have important benefits for both human and planetary health", said Professor Walter Willett from Harvard University and co-author of the study.

Poor diet is responsible for more deaths globally than tobacco, high blood pressure, or any other health risk, according to a new scientific study.

"While sodium, sugar, and fat have been the focus of policy debates over the past two decades, our assessment suggests the leading dietary risk factors are high intake of sodium, or low intake of healthy foods, such as whole grains, fruit, nuts and seeds, and vegetables".

The study found that not only was consumption of healthy food and nutrients suboptimal across the world, but that intake of unhealthy items such as processed meat, sodium and sugary drinks exceeded recommended levels. The next biggest diet-related killers were cancer, with 913,000 deaths, and Type 2 diabetes, which claimed 339,000 lives. Poor diet represents 16% of all DALYs among adults globally. They disclosed that deaths related to diet swelled from eight million in 1990, largely due to increase in population and population ageing.

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Global consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes will have to double, and consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar will have to be reduced by more than 50%.

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.

In the study, researchers analysed eating habits of people across 195 countries to estimate how much poor diets contribute to mortality. There were notable gaps in diet-related data from poorer nations and some of the deaths, the authors noted, could have been attributed to more than one dietary factor, leading to an overestimation of the burden of diseases attributable to diet. France, Spain and Japan followed Israel at the top of the list, while the USA ranked 43rd. Intake of whole grains below 125 grams per day has been a potential dietary risk for death and disease in India, the US, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Russia, Egypt, Germany, Iran, and Turkey.

And while some regions of the world fared better than others, the study authors say nearly all countries are missing the mark when it comes to good nutrition habits. Environmental sustainability must also be considered in improving agriculture systems, the report notes, including impacts on climate change, biodiversity, land and water usage. This report used 2016 data from the GBD study to estimate how far the world is from the healthy diet proposed.

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