One in five deaths worldwide linked to unhealthy diet


A staggering 11 million deaths, or one in five deaths, is linked to poor nutrition. High sodium was the leading risk factor in many Asian countries, while a diet low in fruits was the biggest problem in sub-Saharan Africa and low intake of nuts and seeds ranked first in Mexico.

"Diet quality matters no matter what weight you are", Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, told the BBC about the report.

Which countries do best when it comes to diet?

The UK ranked 23rd (127 deaths per 100,000) above Ireland (24th) and Sweden (25th), and the United States 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.

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

I asked Afshin which ranking surprised him and why.

"When they increase the consumption of something, they decrease the consumption of other things".

Of course, there are obstacles to eating well, including access and affordability. "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". More than 1.9 billion people are overweight, while 800 million people are hungry around the world. And the costs are staggering.

The vast majority of diet-related deaths were due to heart disease, followed by cancers and Type 2 diabetes.

Experts say the alarming figures should be a stark reminder of the health risks of overloading on red meat and soda without getting enough greens in. They need nourishment. If you fill up on a diet of packaged snacks made from refined-carbohydrates and sugary sodas, you may get the calories you need, but those calories will put you on a path toward disease.

The diets cutting lives short were found to be particularly high in salt and too low in whole grains and fruit. We'd run out. Yep, that's right.

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In Israel, it reported, just 89 people out of every 100,000 die each year in deaths related to poor-quality diet.

"Poor diet is an equal opportunity killer", said Dr Afshin.

"UK guidelines advise that we should be eating plenty of fruit and vegetables as well as beans, lentils, fish and wholegrains".

These latest findings reinforce the urgent need for coordinated global efforts to improve diet, through collaboration with various sections of the food system and policies that drive balanced diets. Indeed, the well-known adage "You are what you eat" has been in circulation for decades.

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According to a major new study, unhealthy diets are responsible for 11 million preventable deaths globally per year - more than smoking tobacco.

The researchers said that people in nearly every part of the world could benefit from improving their diets.

What has been newly discovered, however, is that consuming these items in large quantities and on a regular basis poses the highest risk factor for death.

The authors note several important limitations to the study.

In Bangladesh, low intake of fruits - below 250 grams per day - was the leading dietary risk.

A bad diet is worse for your health than smoking. So big picture - what do people eat, or not eat, that's so bad? On the other hand, Uzbekistan was one of the worst, while the US ranked 43rd on the list.