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
DEC 21, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Mutagens May Be Having a Bigger Effect Than We Knew
DEC 21, 2020
Mutagens May Be Having a Bigger Effect Than We Knew
New research has suggested that our DNA is more susceptible to mutagenic influences than we've appreciated. While organi ...
DEC 23, 2020
Immunology
COVID Survivors Stay Immune for at Least a Year
DEC 23, 2020
COVID Survivors Stay Immune for at Least a Year
Once the coronavirus enters the body, the immune system springs into action, producing antibodies that bind to and neutr ...
JAN 07, 2021
Health & Medicine
How Cannabis Might Help Fibromyalgia
JAN 07, 2021
How Cannabis Might Help Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia affects as many as 4 million adults in America  (2 percent of the adult population) and is a debilitat ...
JAN 11, 2021
Immunology
Can Immune cells contribute to Lung Diseases Severity?!
JAN 11, 2021
Can Immune cells contribute to Lung Diseases Severity?!
Macrophages are a type of immune cell that can detect and destruct bacteria, viruses, and harmful materials. They a ...
JAN 20, 2021
Immunology
Gut Bacteria's Poison Arrows Exposed
JAN 20, 2021
Gut Bacteria's Poison Arrows Exposed
Bacteria armed with toxin bombs and excruciating abdominal pains caused by raging inflammation in the gut. While the cau ...
JAN 19, 2021
Cardiology
Looking to the Immune System for Help Diagnosing Carotid Stenosis
JAN 19, 2021
Looking to the Immune System for Help Diagnosing Carotid Stenosis
Everyone has seen a commercial about how bad fats can build up into a plaque into a blood vessel. This is called atheros ...
Loading Comments...