1 in every 5 deaths around the world because of poor diet

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Protein rich food
Protein rich food

Lancet Study says globally one in every five deaths is because of poor diet

  • Globally, one in five deaths (11 million deaths) in 2017 were associated with poor diet, with cardiovascular disease being the biggest contributor, followed by cancers and type 2 diabetes.
  • Largest shortfalls in global consumption were seen for foods such as nuts and seeds, milk, and whole grains, while sugary drinks, processed meat and sodium were overeaten. 
  • The largest number of diet-related deaths were associated with eating too much sodium, not enough whole grains and not enough fruits. Across all 15 dietary factors, more deaths were associated with not eating enough healthy foods compared with eating too many unhealthy foods.
  • Out of all 195 countries, the proportion of diet-related deaths was highest in Uzbekistan, and lowest in Israel. The UK ranked 23rd, the United States 43rd, China 140th, and India 118th.

People in almost every region of the world could benefit from rebalancing their diets to eat optimal amounts of various foods and nutrients, according to the Global Burden of Disease study tracking trends in consumption of 15 dietary factors from 1990 to 2017 in 195 countries, published in The Lancet.

“This study affirms what many have thought for several years – that poor diet is responsible for more deaths than any other risk factor in the world”

The study estimates that one in five deaths globally – equivalent to 11 million deaths – are associated with poor diet, and diet contributes to a range of chronic diseases in people around the world.

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 (see figure 3 [1] and supplemental table 9). 

The authors say that their findings highlight 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. 

“This study affirms what many have thought for several years – that poor diet is responsible for more deaths than any other risk factor in the world,” says study author Dr Christopher Murray, Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington, USA. “While sodium, sugar, and fat have been the focus of policy debates over the past two decades, our assessment suggests the leading dietary risk factors are high intake of sodium, or low intake of healthy foods, such as whole grains, fruit, nuts and seeds, and vegetables. The paper also highlights the need for comprehensive interventions to promote the production, distribution, and consumption of healthy foods across all nations.”