In 2017, a poor diet, defined as one high in sodium and low in whole grains and fruits, contributed to 11 million deaths globally, accounting for roughly one of every five deaths, according to research published in The Lancet.
“Suboptimal diet is an important preventable risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCDs); however, its impact on the burden of NCDs has not been systematically evaluated,” Christopher Murray, MD, DPhil, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, and other Global Burden of Disease (GBD) 2017 Diet Collaborators wrote.
Murray and colleagues conducted the GBD study to examine trends from 1990 to 2017 in major foods and nutrients consumed across 195 countries among adults aged 25 years and older to determine how suboptimal intake affects mortality and morbidity of NCDs including cancers, CVD and diabetes. The researchers evaluated the proportion of disease-specific burden attributable to each dietary risk factor using a comparative risk assessment approach, then calculated deaths and disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) attributable to diet for each disease outcome.
Dietary risk factors studied included diets low in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, milk, fiber, calcium, seafood omega-3 fatty acids and polyunsaturated fats and diets high in red meat, processed meat, sugar-sweetened beverages, trans fatty acids and sodium.
In 2017, a poor diet, defined as one high in sodium and low in whole grains and fruits, contributed to 11 million deaths globally.
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Data indicated that dietary risk factors contributed to 11 million (95% uncertainty interval [UI], 10-12) deaths and 255 million (95% UI, 234-274) DALYs in 2017. The leading dietary risk factors that contributed to these deaths and DALYs were high intake of sodium (3 million deaths and 70 million DALYs), low intake of whole grains (3 million deaths and 82 million DALYs) and low intake of fruits (2 million deaths and 65 million DALYs). Additionally, low intake of whole grains, fruit, nuts and seeds caused more deaths than high intake of trans fats, sugary drinks, and high levels of red and processed meats.
The diet-related deaths were mostly due to CVD (n = 10 million), cancer (n = 913,000) and type 2 diabetes (n = 339,000).
The United States ranked 43rd of 195 countries in the proportion of diet-related deaths.
The researchers noted that data about dietary consumption were not available for all countries and were from varied sources, thereby raising statistical uncertainty.
“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 paper also highlights the need for comprehensive interventions to promote the production, distribution, and consumption of healthy foods across all nations,” Murray said in a press release. – by Alaina Tedesco
Disclosures: Murray reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.