In 2017, one in every five deaths globally was due to poor eating habits according to a recent report published in The Lancet. “This study affirms that poor diet is responsible for more deaths than any other risk factor in the world,” author Dr Christopher Murray, Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington said.
The Global Burden of Diseases study tracked trends in consumption of fifteen dietary factors, from 1990 to 2017 in 195 countries. It states people in every region across the world need to rebalance their diets to eat optimal amounts of various foods and nutrients.
“India ranked 118th in a global index, with poor dietary habits accounting for 310 deaths per 100,000 people.”
The study estimated that eleven million deaths were associated with poor diet, contributing to a range of chronic diseases including cancer and type two diabetes. In 2017 alone, more deaths were caused due to deficiency of whole grains, fruit, nuts and seeds than by diets with high levels of foods like trans fats, sugary drinks, and high levels of red and processed meats.
India ranked 118th in a global index, with poor dietary habits accounting for 310 deaths per 100,000 people. Low intake of whole grains is the leading dietary risk factor for death in India, as well as other nations including Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Russia, Egypt, Germany, Iran, and Turkey.
It is worth noting that ten million people died from cardiovascular disease, 913,000 cancer deaths, and almost 339,000 deaths from type 2 diabetes. Poor diet is identified as a driving factor behind these largely preventable deaths. Shockingly, deaths related to diet stood at eight million in 1990 and have increased immensely in the years since due to a rise in the population and population ageing while uptake of unhealthy eating habits has become more common.
“The largest shortfalls in optimal intake were seen for nuts and seeds, milk, whole grains. The largest excesses were seen for sugar-sweetened beverages, processed meat and sodium”
“While sodium, sugar, and fat have been the focus of policy debates over the past two decades, our assessment suggests the leading dietary risk factors are high intake of sodium, or low intake of healthy foods, such as whole grains, fruit, nuts and seeds, and vegetables,” Dr Christopher Murray.
The largest shortfalls in optimal intake were seen for nuts and seeds, milk, whole grains. The largest excesses were seen for sugar-sweetened beverages, processed meat and sodium. On average, the world only ate twelve percent of the recommended amount of nuts and seeds whilst drinking around ten times the recommended amount of sugar-sweetened beverages. The global diet included sixteen percent of the recommended amount of milk; 23 percent of the recommended amount of whole grains; ninety percent more processed meat than recommended; and 86 percent more sodium. Already we see the impact of dietary imbalances in many parts of Indian life when it comes to health. India has the third highest obesity rate in the world while also being home to one third of the world’s malnourished children. This dual burden of malnutrition is a major public health threat and it is clear that dietary imbalances are contributing directly to this.
“The PHFI’s warnings about salt – and the newest research shedding light on how such an imbalance in the diet can affect your health – should come as a warning to many Indians.”
When it comes to sodium, as an example, there have already been ample warnings. The Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) warned last year that Indians are consuming too much salt and that this excess intake is driving a crisis of high blood pressure – contributing to a sizeable proportion of deaths due to chronic diseases.
Overall, hypertension is responsible for 17.5 percent of deaths in India and drives 53.8 percent of deaths due to heart disease; 54.3 percent of deaths due to chronic kidney disease; and 55.7 percent of deaths due to stroke. The PHFI’s warnings about salt – and the newest research shedding light on how such an imbalance in the diet can affect your health – should come as a warning to many Indians.
Dietary patterns for Indians have not seen a significant shift despite lifestyle transition. Earlier more Indians were involved in jobs requiring physical work but now more people working in desk jobs. These occupations are increasing health risks. As a white-collar job means less exercise a balanced diet becomes more important in pursuit of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The study’s authors have called for an overhaul in the dietary patterns, increased national surveillance and monitoring systems for key dietary risk factors. For the sake of their health, Indians – and, indeed, people worldwide – must pay heed to these warnings and take these recommendations on board.