20% of global deaths linked to poor diet

Poor diet is the leading risk factor for deaths from lifestyle-related diseases in the majority of the world according to new research

One in five deaths worldwide are linked to bad diet, study finds

In 2017, more deaths were caused by diets with too low amounts of foods such as whole grains, fruit, nuts and seeds than by diets with high levels of foods like trans fats, sugary drinks, and high levels of red and processed meats.

Those diseases are heavily influenced by high amounts of salt in the diet, which can cause spikes in blood pressure, as well as directly affecting the functioning of the heart.

In a breakdown of diet-related deaths, the study found that of the 11 million in 2017, nearly 10 million were from cardiovascular diseases, around 913,000 from cancer, and nearly 339,000 from type 2 diabetes.

The research, published in British journal The Lancet, claims that around 11 million deaths per year - or one in five - are a result of a poor diet.

Unhealthy diets are responsible for more deaths across the globe than smoking, a major new study has concluded.

So what counts as a good diet?

The UK ranked 23rd (127 deaths per 100,000), and the USA ranked 43rd (171 deaths per 100,000) after Rwanda and Nigeria (41st and 42nd).

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'We find that diet is one of the dominant drivers of health around the world, it's really quite profound, ' Professor Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, told the BBC.

"Generally, the countries that have a diet close to the Mediterranean diet, which has higher intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts and healthy oils [including olive oil and omega-3 fatty acids from fish] are the countries where we see the lowest number of [diet-related] deaths", Afshin says. Israel, France, Spain and Japan were some of the top countries which had the least poor diet-related deaths. It should be noted that there were data gaps for intake of key foods in some countries, so some estimates could be off. "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". The U.S. ranked 43rd.

Based on the study, the world needs more nourishment instead of just any food on the table.

Eating too few fruits and vegetables and too much sodium (salt) accounted for half of all deaths.

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.

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".

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