Poor food choices killing 90,000 per year — al­most as many as smok­ing

Daily Mail - - Front Page - By Ben Spencer

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.’

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