Poor Diet Linked to 1 in 5 Deaths Globally

It should come as no big surprise that the diet of the average American is not very healthy.  From processed meats and carbohydrates to lots of added sugar and sodium, the risks associated with a diet high in convenient foods is certainly very high.  But while we all probably have some awareness of these risks, it has not always been clear just how much of a risk this diet can be. 

Until now.  A new study warns that this type of diet is associated with 20 percent of all deaths around the world. To put it more succinctly, that is a mortality rate of 1 in 5. 

That in mind, health experts conclude we are eating too much of the bad stuff and not enough of the good. Mark Hyman, MD advises, “We know that sugar is bad and people eat 10 times as much sugar as is recommended; we know that nuts are good, and prevent disease, and people eat only 12 percent of the recommended amount of nuts.”  Indeed, the director of the Center for Functional Medicine, at the Cleveland Clinic concludes: “So, we’re eating way too much of the bad stuff, and hardly enough of the good stuff.”

For this study, researchers looked at dietary trends among people across 195 countries from 1990 to 2017.  They found that diets low in whole foods like grains, nuts, seeds, and fruits but high in trans fats, sugary drinks, and processed and red meats, combined for approximately 11 million deaths, globally. However, ten million of those deaths were related to heart disease; the next prominent conditions related to these deaths were cancers and then type two diabetes. 

While the study about how food contributes to mortality is certainly alarming, America’s rank in terms of diet-related deaths should surprise you more. The US ranks 43rd.

But while some parts of the world definitely fared better than other regions in terms of nutrition, the study authors remind that nearly every country misses the mark in terms of nutrition habits. 

Dr. Hyman goes on to say that we tend to only focus on getting rid of “bad foods” and do not focus enough on adding more nutritional foods.  He adds, “Food is the biggest contributor, globally, to chronic disease and death. I think it’s important to focus on not only what to remove—too much sugar; processed foods; junk; fast foods—but focus on what to add. For instance, fruits and vegetables should make up 80 percent of your diet.”