A new study has found that poor diet is behind one in five deaths worldwide.
This number is equivalent to 11 million deaths per year, which is more than the number of fatalities linked to smoking and high blood pressure.
11 Million Deaths Linked To Poor Diet
Researchers of the new study published in the journal Lancet analyzed the diets of people in 195 countries. Then, they estimated the impact of poor diet on the risk of death from diseases that include heart disease, diabetes, and cancers.
They found that in 2017, an estimated 11 million deaths could be blamed on unhealthy diets. Of these, 10,000 deaths were from heart disease, 913,000 were from obesity-related cancers, and nearly 339,000 from type 2 diabetes.
Close To The Mediterranean Diet
The researchers also found that diets high in sodium, and low in whole grains and fruits accounted for over half of diet-related deaths globally.
"Poor dietary habits, which is a combination of high intake of unhealthy foods, such as red meat, processed meat, and sugar-sweetened beverages and a low intake of healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and seeds, overall causes more deaths than any other risk factors globally," said study researcher Ashkan Afshin, from the University of Washington.
Of the 195 countries included in the study, Israel has the lowest rate of diet-related deaths while Uzbekistan has the highest. Other countries with the lowest rate of diet-related deaths include France, Spain, and Japan.
The researchers said that the countries that did well generally have diets close to the Mediterranean diet, which has higher amounts of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and healthy oils.
The Mediterranean pattern of eating is among the healthiest in the world. Research has found it beneficial not just to the body but also to mental health. It also helps reduce brain shrinkage caused by aging.
Impact On Public Health
The findings highlight the importance of a healthy diet in preventing illnesses and death. The researchers said that the idea of increasing the consumption of a healthy diet needs to be added to policy debates.
"This study provides a comprehensive picture of the potential impact of suboptimal diet on NCD mortality and morbidity, highlighting the need for improving diet across nations," the researchers wrote in their study. "Our findings will inform implementation of evidence-based dietary interventions and provide a platform for evaluation of their impact on human health annually."