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Health effects of dietary risks in 195 countries, 1990–2017:a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study

4 April 2019

Click here to read the full paper

Today, The Lancet have released the next instalment of the Global Burden of Disease Study, investigating the health effects of our diet. The analysis included data from 195 countries and assessed the impact of 15 different nutrients - including salt, whole grains, sugar-sweetened drinks and processed meat - on deaths and disability caused by non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.

The analysis found that ‘suboptimal’ diets – i.e. diets with too many unhealthy components or not enough healthy foods – were responsible for 11 million deaths worldwide in 2017, equivalent to 22% of total deaths. Cardiovascular disease was the leading cause of diet-related deaths (10 million deaths), followed by cancers (913, 090 deaths) and Type 2 Diabetes (338, 714 deaths).  Almost half (45%) of the 11 million deaths occurred in people younger than 70 years old.

In 2017, more than half of diet-related deaths were caused by:

  • Eating too much salt - 3 million deaths
  • Not eating enough whole grains - 3 million deaths
  • Not eating enough fruit and vegetables - 2 million deaths 

Consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks was 16 times higher than the recommended level, and was highest in younger adults. Average global salt intake was 86% higher than recommended levels and was the leading dietary risk for deaths in China, Japan, and Thailand. Intakes of healthier foods and nutrients was also lower than optimal intakes, with whole grain and nuts and seeds consumption at just 23% and 12% of optimal levels respectively. Among unhealthy food groups, consumption of sodium and sugar-sweetened beverages were higher than the optimal level in nearly every region.

The analysis also found that poor diet is responsible for more deaths than any other risks globally. Tobacco was associated with 8m deaths, and high blood pressure was linked to 10.4m deaths in 2017.



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