Poor diet around the world causes 11 million deaths a year, which is more than the amount caused by smoking. That’s according to a new analysis published in The Lancet, which indicates high amounts of salt and a lack of wholegrains are the two biggest factors causing early death.
That’s because around ten million of those 11 million deaths were attributable to cardiovascular disease, and eating too much salt raises blood pressure and in turn the risk of heart attacks and strokes, while wholegrains lower the risk of heart problems.
Too much salt and too few wholegrains were each linked to three million deaths a year. Other common dietary problems highlighted by the study were a lack of fruit, which was linked to two million deaths, with low levels of nuts, seeds, fibre and omega 3 from seafood other leading causes.
After heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes made up the rest of the deaths linked to poor diet, and different countries around the world were generally shown to have different deficiencies. Uzbekistan had the highest rate of diet-related deaths in the world at 892 per 100,000 people a year, with China and several other countries in central, south east and southern Asia also near the top of the rankings, mostly due to the high amount of salt in the populations’ diet.
At the other end of the scale, Israel was found to have the lowest rate of diet-related deaths at 89 per 100,000 people a year, and other countries around the Mediterranean like France and Spain also had low rates.
As for the UK, it was found to have 127 deaths per 100,000 people a year related to diet, with the main problems being a lack of these five things:
So if you’re looking for some healthy changes to make on the back of this study, focus on upping your wholegrain intake, exceeding five portions of fruit and veg a day (it’s a minimum, not a maximum), and munching on a handful of nuts and seeds come snack time. And keep a close eye on your salt intake – processed meat, bread and cooking sauces are all particularly high in the stuff.