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Bad diets kill more people than tobacco, say researchers

April 5, 2019
Bad diets kill more people than tobacco, say researchers

Photo: AFP

Unhealthy diets are the cause of 11 million preventable deaths every year globally, according to research. The real problem is not the junk food we eat, but the lack of nutritious food in our diet.

Researchers said fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes should be promoted for healthy living. More deaths occur due to the absence of healthy foods rather than sugar and trans-fat, according to The Guardian.

The research was conducted by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in Seattle and was published in the Lancet Medical Journal.

Inadequate diets can cause heart attacks, strokes, cancer and type 2 diabetes. Eating and drinking better could prevent one in five deaths, said the study.

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

They said healthy options should be promoted rather than cutting down on sugar, salt and fat, which has been “the main focus of diet policy debate in the past two decades”.

Related: E-cigarettes are causing seizures in young people

 The main problem was with eating too much salt, red processed meat and sugary drinks, according to the study. Other risk factors were eating too few whole grains, fruits, nuts and seeds, omega-3 fatty acids, fruits, nuts and seeds, milk and fibre.

Poor diets caused 10 million deaths, or 22% of the total deaths that occurred in 2017, said researchers. Nearly 45% of people were younger than 70. Tobacco was linked to eight million deaths.

“Adoption of diets emphasising soy foods, beans and other healthy plant sources of protein will have important benefits for both human and planetary health,” said Professor Walter Willett from Harvard University and co-author of the study.

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