APR 17, 2019 8:57 AM PDT

Are you eating your fruits and whole grains? Your life may depend on it.

WRITTEN BY: Tiffany Dazet

A study published last week in the medical journal The Lancet uncovered one of the biggest threats to human survival—poor diet. This analysis of dietary data from 195 countries showed that suboptimal diet and related risk factors caused 11 million deaths in 2017—a figure now higher than smoking or high blood pressure-related deaths. Cardiovascular disease was the leading cause of diet-related deaths, followed by cancers and Type 2 diabetes.

This study, which is part of the Global Burden of Diseases Study through the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) and funded by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is considered the most comprehensive of its kind. More than 130 scientists from nearly 40 countries contributed to the analysis of data from 1990 through 2017. 

Fifteen major dietary factors were analyzed to determine how suboptimal food and nutrient intake impacts death from non-communicable diseases and morbidity. Of the 15 dietary factors analyzed high sodium intake, low whole grain intake, and low fruit intake were the leading dietary risk factors and accounted for more than 50% of global deaths. Low consumption of nuts and seeds, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids each accounted for 2% of global deaths.

Globally, consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, processed meats, and sodium was much higher than the ideal intake range. Red meat was 18% higher than the optimum intake across the globe. 

The results of this study demonstrate that increasing intake of healthy foods may be more important to a proper diet than just eating less unhealthy foods. In a statement released by IHME, lead author Dr. Afshin said “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.”

Improving diet and nutrient intake could potentially prevent one in every five deaths around the world. In IHME’s statement about the study, Dr. Ashkan Afshin warned that “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.”

Sources: The Lancet, Health Data, CNN, TIME

About the Author
  • Tiffany grew up in Southern California, where she attended San Diego State University. She graduated with a degree in Biology with a marine emphasis, thanks to her love of the ocean and wildlife. With 13 years of science writing under her belt, she now works as a freelance writer in the Pacific Northwest.
You May Also Like
OCT 05, 2020
Immunology
Can't Shed Those Extra Pounds? An Inflammatory Gene Could Be to Blame.
OCT 05, 2020
Can't Shed Those Extra Pounds? An Inflammatory Gene Could Be to Blame.
  Australian scientists have zeroed in on a gene linked to an increased obesity risk: a regulator of inflammation c ...
OCT 14, 2020
Cancer
Using Plasma Scalpels with Chemotherapy Against Brain Cancer
OCT 14, 2020
Using Plasma Scalpels with Chemotherapy Against Brain Cancer
Cold atmospheric plasma is a relatively new technique that utilizes a tool that generates a sort of plasma scalpel, exce ...
OCT 12, 2020
Microbiology
Researchers May Have Found a Way to Cure Rotavirus Infections
OCT 12, 2020
Researchers May Have Found a Way to Cure Rotavirus Infections
Rotaviruses are very contagious. They are the most common cause of diarrhea in children and are estimated to cause about ...
OCT 17, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Imaging Innovation Set to Ease the Pain of Osteoarthritis
OCT 17, 2020
Imaging Innovation Set to Ease the Pain of Osteoarthritis
In osteoarthritis, the joint cartilage that cushions bones begins to break down, causing debilitating pain and stiffness ...
OCT 19, 2020
Plants & Animals
Genetically Engineered Foods Could Alleviate Nutritional Deficiencies
OCT 19, 2020
Genetically Engineered Foods Could Alleviate Nutritional Deficiencies
There are over two billion people around the world that don't get the recommended levels of minerals and vitamins in ...
OCT 22, 2020
Microbiology
SARS-CoV-2 Has Multiple Routes Into Cells
OCT 22, 2020
SARS-CoV-2 Has Multiple Routes Into Cells
Since the pandemic virus SARS-CoV-2 emerged on the scene late last year, it's left a trail of devastation around the glo ...
Loading Comments...