Poor diets killed 11 million people in 2017 according to research in Lancet

Two of my favorite quotes are "Let your food be your medicine." and "You can't outrun your fork."

Now a recent study published in Lancet quantified just what happens when your fork runs you down on a global scale.

11 million deaths from non-communicable disease caused by poor diets and many more active years of life reduced.

Good to know that a small number of dietary risks had a large impact on health outcomes, meaning we can focus on improving those first. 

  1. High sodium intake: 3 million deaths
  2. Low intake of whole grains: 3 million deaths
  3. Low intake of fruits: 2 million deaths

The researchers found that 1 in 5 deaths could potentially be prevented by improved diet. They go as far as to say that poor diet contributes to more deaths globally than does tobacco smoking highlighting the need for an awakening.

"Although sodium, sugar, and fat have been the main focus of diet policy debate in the past two decades, our assessment shows that the leading dietary risk factors for mortality are diets high in sodium, low in whole grains, low in fruit, low in nuts and seeds, low in vegetables, and low in omega-3 fatty acids; each accounting for more than 2% of global deaths. This finding suggests that dietary policies focusing on promoting the intake of components of diet for which current intake is less than the optimal level might have a greater effect than policies only targeting sugar and fat, highlighting the need for a comprehensive food system interventions to promote the production, distribution, and consumption of these foods across nations."

The researchers found that 1 in 5 deaths could potentially be prevented by improved diet. They go as far as to say that poor diet contributes to more deaths globally than does tobacco smoking highlighting the need for an awakening.

What are whole grains anyway?

According to Harvard T.H.Chan School of Public Health, whole grains offer a 'complete package' of health benefits beyond refined grains. Whole grains must contain three parts: the bran, germ, and endosperm. Together these three parts offer a wide array of beneficial nutrients from fiber (outer layer) that supplies B vitamins, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. The core of the seed is rich in healthy fats, vitamin E, B vitamins, phytonutrients, and antioxidants. The innermost layer holds carbohydrates, protein, and small amounts of some B vitamins and minerals.

Each nutrient provides differing benefits from maintaining blood sugar levels, lowering cholesterol, moving waste through the digestive system, preventing blood clots, protecting against some cancers, among many others.

Important to note that one study revealed that inconsistent food labeling means that foods identified as "whole grain" are not always healthy. Beware of sugar added, lower than 10:1 carb to fiber ratio, and high sodium.

In general, be a skeptical consumer who reads nutritional facts and not just the front panel of packaging.

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