Eating badly kills more people than smoking
Eating badly, be it in the form of few foods or a lot of others, is related to 11 million deaths in the world per year, according to a study published by The Lancet.
This figure represents practically one fifth of the 57 million deaths that occur on the planet annually, and is higher than the deaths attributed to tobacco (7 million, according to the World Health Organization, WHO), cancer (8.2 million), heart attacks (5.5 million) and obesity (2.8 million).
These 11 million are distributed among deaths from cardiovascular diseases (10 million), cancers related to food, such as those of the colon (900,000) and diabetes (300,000).
Of course, all these aspects are related, and there are deaths related to nutrition that manifest as cancer.
The work was conducted to determine the consumption of 15 nutrients in 195 countries.
Specifically, it was established that a diet low in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, milk, fiber, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids from marine foods, polyunsaturated fats and high in red meat or processed meat is bad. Sugar, trans fats and sodium, are extremely harmful to humans, too.
Within this complicated balance, ingesting less of one thing and more of another, the authors affirm that the study confirms “what many thought”:
“That a poor diet in the foods that should be present is responsible for more deaths than any other risk factor in the world,” in the words of the lead author of the article, Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Metrics and Evaluation Health of the University of Washington.
That’s why Murray goes further, and points to the need to redefine campaigns for good nutrition practices.
“While sodium, sugar and fat have been the focus of debate in the last two decades, our work suggests that the main risk factors in diets are the high sodium intake, but also the low intake of healthy foods, such as whole grains, fruit, nuts, seeds and vegetables,” he says.
Excess salt and inadequate consumption of whole grains and fruits are responsible for half of those 11 million deaths, according to the study.
The group of experts, in which there are also representatives of Harvard University, had already evaluated the situation in 1990, and since then the deaths associated with imbalances in the diet have increased by eight million.
The work offers a classification of the 195 countries studied. Israel, France and Spain are, in this order, the three whose dietary habits cause fewer deaths, with less than 90 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. They are followed by Japan and Andorra.
The work corroborates what other studies have revealed for many years about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet and the Atlantic diet, which has the same basis: eating products that are harvested from nearby farms, including many vegetables and fish.
“The diet has to be sensible and balanced, any food can be incorporated if you use your head and you have a very varied diet.”
The fact that has been more revealing is the damage attributed to salt abuse.
“We have a problematic consumption that has even altered the perception of consumers,” who do not notice how salty they eat. But, in return, the study highlights that important measures have been taken, such as “the reduction in salt by 25% in bread flour”.
“Many pathologies are counteracted by very aggressive treatments”, such as the intensive use of antihypertensive drugs to combat the effect of salt. “Here the mortality is very low because we do everything.”
On average, the world population ate only 12% of the 21 grams of walnuts and seeds recommended per day and took 10 times the recommended amount of sugary drinks; that is 49 grams compared to the 3 stipulated.
Only 16% of the milk considered necessary was consumed, only about a quarter of the whole grains, almost double the processed meat and 86% more sodium.
An elevated sodium intake, that is more than three grams per day, was the main cause of death in Japan, China, and Thailand. Eating a few whole grains -less than 125 grams a day- was a problem detected in the United States, India, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Russia, Egypt, Germany, Iran, and Turkey.
Taking little fruit -the minimum is 250 grams per day- is a problem in countries like Bangladesh, while in Mexico, people still eat very few nuts and seeds,
Finally, eating a lot of red meat -more than 23 grams per day-, processed meat -more than two grams per day-, trans fat -more than 0.5% of the energy consumed- and sugary drinks -more than three grams of sugar a day-, are the concerns in the most populated countries.
Adherence to healthier patterns could be associated with lower mortality, and certain national policies could improve that individual behavior by favoring accessibility and control of prices for healthy products and / or higher tax rates for the most harmful ones.”
In some economically more unfavorable countries, the accessibility to reach a desirable consumption of some of those nutrients is almost impossible, and perhaps the improvement of environmental health and socio-health conditions occupy a preferential place in the improvement of the quality and quantity of life.
The fact that areas like Asia consume a high amount of sodium like soy sauce, salted meats and fish, pickles and other salted fish is understandable.
Although the Mediterranean diet has been losing space in people’s life, it is still out there, and also its effect is not completely lost.