Bad diets are responsible for more deaths than smoking
Smoking is the worst thing you can do to your body, right? Perhaps it has the most obvious health effects, but a bad diet is a silent and even deadlier killer. The numbers are staggering, about 11 million deaths a year around the world are caused by bad diets. That is almost twice as high as the 7 million deaths from smoking. As a whole, we consume way too much sugar in foods and drinks, as well as too much salt and processed foods and meats. Some parts of the world are doing better than others, but overall we are dying quickly from our food and beverage choices.
The main things missing from our diet are enough whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. It can be hard to find non-processed foods now a days but, even so, making sure you try to eat as clean as possible will make a huge difference. In a study published by The Lancet, the diet of 195 countries was analyzed using surveys along with sales and household expenditure data. The study estimated the impact poor diets have on risks of dying from diseases and compared it to deaths from other things like smoking. "This study shows that poor diet is the leading risk factor for deaths in the majority of the countries of the world," says study author Ashkan Afshin of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. Unhealthy diets are "a larger determinant of ill health than either tobacco or high blood pressure," he says.
Countries like Israel, France, Spain and Japan, that follow a diet close to the Mediterranean diet had the lowest rates of diet-related diseases. Mediterranean diets are composed of greater amounts of fruits, vegetables, nuts and healthy oils. The United States was surprisingly not the highest, ranking at 43rd and China ranked 140th.
Mr. Afshin was surprised by some of the findings in the study. He said he was surprised to see that Mexico ranked 57th on the list, yet they eat a lot of whole grain corn tortillas, and as we know, whole grain is beneficial. Mr. Afshin did say that Mexico has one of the highest levels of sugar-filled drink consumption, which is very detrimental to health and overpowers the benefits from the whole grains consumed. A big obstacle to eating healthy is access and affordability. Unfortunately, places like McDonalds and Taco Bell are a lot more accessible and affordable than eating nutrient rich, healthy meals.
One big concept we sometimes fail to keep in mind is that hunger and obesity are both forms of malnutrition. 800 million people around the world suffer from hunger and don't have enough to eat, meanwhile 1.9 billion people eat too much and weigh too much. A report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies looked into the cost of malnutrition. "Worldwide, malnutrition costs $3.5 trillion annually, with overweight- and obesity-related noncommunicable diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, adding $2 trillion”.
The main idea that comes out of these findings is that to live a healthy life, one does not merely need any type of food. Yes, everyone needs food and calories, but we need nourishment from food, not just empty calories. If your diet consists of packages of muffins and soda, you will get the calories you need, but you are also shortening your lifespan by doing so.
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