BAD DIET TO BLAME FOR 1 IN 6 DEATHS
Poor food choices killing 90,000 per year — almost as many as smoking
POOR diets kill almost 90,000 Britons a year.
Nearly one in six deaths is now linked to unhealthy eating, researchers said. The cost in lives is close to that from smoking.
Low intake of fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and fibre are the biggest problems, according to findings published in the Lancet medical journal. Excess consumption of processed meat, salt and sugary drinks is almost as deadly.
‘Poor diet is an equal-opportunity killer – we are what we eat,’ said study leader Dr ashkan afshin.
He suggested the best policy would be to direct families toward healthy options rather than warn them against junk food.
His team linked 15 per cent of uK deaths – 89,900 a year – to diet, compared with 96,000 for smoking.
Tam Fry of the National obesity Forum said: ‘as the authors rightly state, we have known for years that what many people eat can kill them but, incredibly, successive governments have done precious little to heed the message.
‘The success of introducing a fizzy drinks levy brilliantly demonstrated
how our food could be healthier but Westminster has failed to build on that momentum. For instance, it still allows you to buy an Easter egg today laced with enough sugar to last you for the week. That should be proof enough that the message is still unheard.’
The US researchers from the University of Washington said the vast majority of diet-related deaths were due to heart disease, followed by cancer and Type 2 diabetes.
Official statistics show fewer than one in three adults heeds the NHS ‘five-aday’ advice on fruit and vegetables.
Similar campaigns on salt consumption were initially successful, but have petered out. Nine in ten adults fail to eat the recommended amount of fibre.
Meanwhile junk food is booming – with 5,800 takeaways opening in under four years – and a third of children and two thirds of adults now being overweight.
But Dr Afshin insisted the focus should not be on steering people away from junk food. ‘We are highlighting the
‘Enough sugar to last a week’
importance of low consumption of healthy foods as compared to the greater consumption of unhealthy foods,’ he said.
‘Dietary policies focusing on promoting healthy eating can have a more beneficial effect than policies advocating against unhealthy foods.’
Nita Forouhi of Cambridge University said the study’s findings provided evidence to shift the focus to the promotion of healthy food. But the professor added: ‘There are of course considerable challenges in shifting populations’ diets in this direction – illustrated by the cost of fruits and vegetables being disproportionately prohibitive.’
The data showed that diets in other countries are often far worse. A global league table put the UK’s death rate linked to unhealthy food as the 23rd best from 195 countries.
There were 127 deaths linked to diet per 100,000 people in Britain in 2017, compared with 171 per 100,000 in the US, 350 per 100,000 in China and 892 per 100,000 in Afghanistan.
Israel, France and Spain had the lowest diet-related death rates in the world, with just 89 deaths per 100,000.
Tracy Parker of the British Heart Foundation said: ‘This study confirms the sad truth that poor diet is responsible for more deaths than any other risk factor in the world.
‘It is especially concerning to see that so many deaths in the UK could be avoided by tackling obesity, poor diet and physical inactivity.
‘UK guidelines advise that we should be eating plenty of fruit and vegetables as well as beans, lentils, fish and wholegrains. Cutting down on foods high in salt, sugar, saturated fat and calories will also lower the risk of becoming obese and help prevent high cholesterol and blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.’
Dr Anna Diaz-Font of the World Cancer Research Fund
‘Increased risk of cancer’
said the group’s own research showed that a poor diet increased the risk of cancer as well as obesity – further increasing the risk of 12 different types of cancer.
‘We call on governments to implement evidence-informed policies that encourage people to make healthier choices by making the healthy option easiest,’ she added.
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: ‘Urgent global action is needed to reduce the risk of dying from a poor diet.
‘The food we eat must be healthier and, while a balanced diet is the cornerstone to a healthy population, more must be done to reduce the burden of diet-related disease.
‘Our world-leading work on sugar reduction programme is a clear step in the right direction and we want to see that ambition from other countries.’