(TIME) — Poor diets are linked to 20% of all deaths worldwide, study says. But these foods could help mag.time.com/aD1dtO6.
Poor diets, with too many unhealthy foods and not enough nutritious ones, are responsible for a fifth of deaths worldwide, a new study says.
The sweeping review — which analyzed nearly 20 years of dietary data from 195 countries, alongside epidemiological studies about nutrition-related health risks and benefits — estimates that poor diets killed 11 million people around the world in 2017, mostly by contributing to cardiovascular disease and cancer. That makes subpar nutrition a bigger health threat than well-known risks like smoking, according to the research.
“Diet is an equal-opportunity killer. People — independent of age, gender, country of residence and socioeconomic status — to some extent are affected by poor dietary habits,” says study co-author Dr. Ashkan Afshin, an assistant professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. “Low intake of healthy foods and high intake of unhealthy foods is the leading cause of mortality, globally and in many countries.”
Eating too much sodium — which is linked to high blood pressure and heart conditions — was the largest cause of diet-related death globally, the researchers found. But on the whole, “the main problem we see is the low intake of healthy food,” rather than high intake of unhealthy food, Afshin says. Aside from over-eating sodium and trans fats, most of the top dietary risk factors were related to not eating enough nutritious foods, including whole grains, nuts and seeds, fruits, vegetables, polyunsaturated fats and legumes, Afshin says.