Eleven million deaths which occur globally each year are caused by bad dietary practices, according to a new study — a figure that’s alarmingly more than the number of deaths which occur due to smoking tobacco.
The study, which was published in the Lancet medical journal, was done by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) based in Seattle, Washington. It was done as part of the Global Burden of Disease research.
Interestingly enough, it is not the presence of junk food in the diet, but rather the absence of healthier and more nutritious food choices in the diet, which the study deems responsible for this issue. It was also found that one in five deaths could be prevented by changing dietary habits and including healthier choices in one’s diet.
The study also attributes poor dietary habits to be the cause behind the increase in certain non-communicable diseases such as cancer, heart disease, strokes, and even type 2 diabetes. Eating far too few fruits and vegetables and including too much sodium in the diet accounted for half of all deaths measured in the study. While doctors and nutritionists generally focus on trying to get people to decrease the amount of sugar, trans-fat, and salt included in their diets, the team which conducted the study has stated that it may be more beneficial to have them highlight the foods which should be included rather than the ones which should be reduced.
Similarly, several older studies show a correlation between diet and the prevalence of non-communicable diseases.
The lead author of the study, Dr Ashkan Afshin of the IHME, encourages people to include healthier options in their diets and not just merely focus on cutting out junk food. “Generally in real life, people do substitution. When they increase the consumption of something, they decrease the consumption of other things,” said Dr Ashkan.