Poor diet kills more people around the world than smoking, research shows

Poor diet kills more people around the world than smoking, research shows

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

Eating unhealthily claims more lives than smoking because of its links to heart disease, cancer and diabetes, say researchers.

More than 130 scientists compared dietary habits to rates of death and disease in 195 countries.

They found that in 2017 poor diet was responsible for 11 million deaths, or 22% of the total recorded.

A breakdown of the analysis showed that low intake of whole grains and fruits, and high consumption of sodium - found in salt - accounted for more than half of diet-related deaths.

The rest were attributed to high consumption of red and processed meat, sugar-sweetened drinks, and other unhealthy foods including those containing trans-fatty acids.

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

Poor diet also caused a huge burden of disability, the researchers reported in The Lancet journal.

In comparison, smoking tobacco was associated with eight million deaths.

Poor diet kills more people around the world than smoking, research shows

Lead scientist Dr Ashkan Afshin, from the University of Washington, US, said: "Poor diet is an equal opportunity killer.

"We are what we eat and risks affect people across a range of demographics, including age, gender, and economic status."

He added: "We are highlighting the importance of low consumption of healthy foods as compared to the greater consumption of unhealthy foods.

"Dietary policies focusing on promoting healthy eating can have a more beneficial effect than policies advocating against unhealthy foods."

The diets most closely linked to death were those high in sodium, and low in whole grains, fruits, nuts, seeds and omega-3 fatty acids, the study found. Each of these factors accounted for more than 2% of all deaths globally.

US co-author Professor Walter Willett, from Harvard University, said the findings supported recent research on heart and artery disease that advocated replacing meat with plant protein.

"Adoption of diets emphasising soy foods, beans and other healthy plant sources of protein will have important benefits for both human and planetary health," he said.

Dr Anna Diaz Font, from the World Cancer Research Fund, said: "This study is very important as it demonstrates the major role that diet plays in the health of individuals and populations.

Our own research shows that having a poor diet increases the risk of cancer and obesity - further increasing the risk of 12 different types of cancer.

"We call on governments to implement evidence-informed policies that encourage people to make healthier choices by making the healthy option easiest."

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said "more must be done to reduce the burden of diet-related disease".

She said the UK's challenge to the food industry to reduce sugar from everyday foods was "a clear step in the right direction", adding "we want to see that ambition from other countries".

- Press Association

More on this topic

Malaria control success in Africa ‘at risk from spread of multi-drug resistance’Malaria control success in Africa ‘at risk from spread of multi-drug resistance’

Mind training: Wellness coach Alison Canavan on need for mindfulness at you ageMind training: Wellness coach Alison Canavan on need for mindfulness at you age

On the treble: Triathlete Carolyn Hayes goes flat out to win a place in the Olympics On the treble: Triathlete Carolyn Hayes goes flat out to win a place in the Olympics

Early blood pressure change associated with poorer brain health – studyEarly blood pressure change associated with poorer brain health – study

More in this Section

Three dead, including child, as lightning strikes in Poland’s Tatra MountainsThree dead, including child, as lightning strikes in Poland’s Tatra Mountains

Early life on Earth ‘limited by a single enzyme’Early life on Earth ‘limited by a single enzyme’

Woman, 93, dies from ‘broken heart syndrome’ following burglary in UKWoman, 93, dies from ‘broken heart syndrome’ following burglary in UK

UK Government ‘will struggle with no-deal Brexit immigration restrictions’UK Government ‘will struggle with no-deal Brexit immigration restrictions’


Lifestyle

RP O’Donnell says it is hard to find anywhere better than Boston to show your family a great time as he returns to a city he used to call homeA family friendly holiday guide to get the best out of beautiful Boston

More From The Irish Examiner