According to a study published in The Lancet, 20 per cent of all global deaths are linked to poor diet.
Analysing 20 years of dietary data from 195 countries as well as epidemiological studies about nutrition-related health risks and benefits, researchers estimate that there were 11 million deaths in the world in 2017 as a result of poor diet.
“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 and assistant professor of health sciences, Dr. Ashkan Afshin, from 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.”
While eating too much junk food contributed to cardiovascular disease, Afshin suggest that “the main problem we see is the low intake of healthy food,” more so than a diet high in unhealthy foods.
Most of the top dietary risk factors were related to not consuming enough nutritious foods. These include fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes as well as polyunsaturated fats, he continues.
Focusing on 15 key food and nutrient categories, such as fruit and veggies, the team analysed previous research to determine how much you should be eating, how much participants actually ate and the impact of not meeting the idea amount.
The study authors were then able to calculate how the participant's diet imbalance led to both mortality risk as well as the amount of global deaths that poor diet was responsible for.
Unfortunately, the results paint a grim picture. No region in the world actually met the dietary requirements that the team suggests.
Oceania, fared the worst when it came to diet-related deaths while Asian pacific countries with high-income earners were affected the least.
Most worryingly, researchers found that, globally, people were consuming only 12 per cent of the recommended amount of nuts and 23 per cent of the ideal amount of whole grains - both key to heart health.
“Historically, fruits and vegetables have been the centre of attention,” Afshin adds.
“Although they are important…gaps in the consumption of nuts and seeds and whole grains are much higher.”