Published on 25 April 2019

Recent study finds that complications related to eating unhealthily, including type 2 diabetes is leading to more deaths worldwide than smoking.

More people around the world are putting their health at risk by eating a poor diet.

The results of a recent study estimated that 11 million deaths around the world were related to poor diet and linked health complications, including obesity and type 2 diabetes.

An international group of researchers, working under the title Global Burden of Disease 2017 Diet Collaborators, found that a diet high in salt, but low in fruit, wholegrains, nuts and seeds, was connected to more than half of the deaths recorded during their study.

In a report published in The Lancet, researchers said: “Our systematic evaluation of dietary consumption patterns across 195 countries provides a comprehensive picture of the health effects of poor dietary habits at the population level. We found that improvement of diet could potentially prevent one in every five deaths globally.

“Our findings show that suboptimal diet is responsible for more deaths than any other risks globally, including tobacco smoking, highlighting the urgent need for improving human diet across nations.”

For the study researchers estimated consumption of 15 different aspects of diet, such as vegetables and red or processed meat, for each country based on results from national food frequency questionnaires and food sales figures.

Observational studies were also included to assess the impact of these diets on cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and risk of death.

An NHS Behind the Headlines report on the study concluded: “This interesting study highlights the importance of eating a varied, healthy diet.

“Although the researchers have made every effort to look at the links between diet, illness and death, the data is based on estimates and assumptions because it's not possible to do randomised controlled trials in this area.

“Observational studies are unable to prove that diet causes illness or death because other unmeasured factors could be responsible or play a role.

“Despite these limitations, cohort studies have consistently shown links between poor diet and cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cancers.

“Increasing how many wholegrains, fruit, nuts and seeds you eat, and reducing salt intake, are the main take-home messages from this study.”

Read the report in The Lancet
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