Poor diet linked to one-in-five global deaths

By Noli Dinkovski contact

- Last updated on GMT

A high body mass index is the fourth-largest contributor to the loss of healthy life, the study has found
A high body mass index is the fourth-largest contributor to the loss of healthy life, the study has found
Almost one-in-five deaths globally can be attributed to a poor diet, a major study involving more than 2,500 collaborators from 130 countries has revealed.

Bringing the global obesity epidemic into sharp focus, the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study found that a high body mass index (BMI) was the fourth-largest contributor to the loss of healthy life, after high blood pressure, smoking, and high blood sugar.

However, given the interrelationship between high blood glucose, high blood pressure, high BMI and high total cholesterol, the study authors claimed the overall role of diet to be more significant.

Poor diets were associated with 18.8% of all deaths in 2016. Diets lacking in wholegrains, fruit, nuts, seeds, fish oils, and high in salt were cited as the most common dietary risk factors.

Substantial progress made

The study, co-ordinated by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in Seattle, found that since 2006, substantial progress had been made in driving down death rates from some of the world’s most pernicious diseases and conditions.

In 2016, for the first time in modern history, fewer than five million children aged under five died in one year. This compared with 1990 when 11M died.

However, IHME director Dr Christopher Murray claimed obesity was one of the world’s “triad of troubles”​, along with conflict and mental illness, which together prevented death rates coming down further.

Furthermore, he claimed the rate of illness related to people being overweight was “rising too quickly”​, and the disease burden could be found in all sociodemographic levels.

Very low calorie diet foods

Meanwhile, a lobby group promoting low-fat diets has slammed the European Commission’s decision to approve a new set of rules on the control of very low calorie diet (VLCD) foods.

The ruling, approved last month, seeks to ensure better EU consumer protection around the content and marketing of such foods for infants, young children and special medical purposes, as well as total diet replacement for weight control.

However, the European VLCD Industry Group said it would make VLCD foods very difficult to manufacture, and leave them with an unpleasant taste and unappealing texture – effectively removing them from the market.

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