April 11, 2019

Is Your Bad Diet Deadly?

Study: 1 in 5 deaths linked to poor diet

Woman eating handful of nuts

It’s no secret that eating a diet full of processed food, sugary drinks and sodium isn’t the best choice for your overall health.


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But a new study says a diet full of excessive unhealthy foods, and not enough good foods, is associated with 1 in 5 deaths worldwide.

“We know that sugar is bad and people eat 10 times as much sugar as is recommended,” says Functional Medicine Director Mark Hyman, MD, who did not take part in the study. “We know that nuts are good, and prevent disease, but people eat only 12% of the recommended amount of nuts. So we’re eating way too much of the bad stuff, and hardly enough of the good stuff.”

A look at the data

The study looked at dietary trends for people in 195 countries between 1990 and 2017.

Researchers wanted to see if there was a connection between diet and chronic disease.

In 2017, diets low in whole grains, fruit, nuts and seeds, and high in trans fats, sugary drinks, red and processed meats, accounted for roughly 11 million deaths worldwide.

Ten million of those deaths were attributed to heart disease, followed by cancer and type 2 diabetes.

Of the 195 countries studied, the United States ranked 43 in terms of the number of diet-related deaths.

And while some regions of the world fared better than others, the study authors said almost all countries are missing the mark when it comes to good nutrition habits.

Good foods as medicine

When we only focus on getting rid of bad foods and not on adding nutritional ones, we make a mistake because good foods that promote health are like medicine to our bodies, says Dr. Hyman.


“Food is the biggest contributor, globally, to chronic disease and death,” says Dr. Hyman. “I think it’s important to focus on not only what to remove – too much sugar, processed foods, fast foods – and focus on what to add. For instance, fruits and vegetables should make up 80% of your diet.”

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