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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 April 2019

Death by diet more likely than by smoking, drugs or blood pressure, finds global study

Think about that for a second: a smoker is likely to live longer than someone who eats foods with trans fats - your average cakes, candy, biscuits, burgers, pizzas and French fries are full of the stuff

Sugary drinks, biscuits and frozen and junk food can lead to an early death 
Sugary drinks, biscuits and frozen and junk food can lead to an early death 

It's common knowledge that processed food, and excessive sugar and salt are the peak of the bad-diet pyramid.

What has been newly discovered, however, is that consuming these items in large quantities and on a regular basis poses the highest risk factor for death. Higher, even, than blood pressure, drug use or smoking.

Think about that for a second: a smoker is likely to live longer than someone who eats foods with trans fats - your average cakes, candy, biscuits, burgers, pizzas, French fries, frozen foods and - unfortunately - microwave popcorn are full of the stuff.

The conclusion was drawn at the end of a long-standing global study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and published in The Lancet on April 3. Researchers surveyed the diets of people from 195 countries between 1990 and 2017, based on surveys, sales data and household expenditure data, and made the connections between a poor diet and conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and cancer.

The study found that 11 million people, almost half of whom are younger than 70, die each year owing to eating unhealthy food; in comparison, tobacco is linked to 8 million deaths, and blood pressure to 10.4m. The report also stated that one in five deaths can be avoided by eating and drinking better.

Diets in Lebanon, Mexico and Japan are healthy

People from countries that mainly follow a Mediterranean diet that is low in red meat, and high in fish and fruits and veg, which are cooked in olive oil, have a higher life expectancy, as do those from Japan, France and Lebanon.

Mexico ranked 11th, the US 43rd and China 140th. Although the Lancet report mentions an affiliation with professor S Hamidi from Dubai's Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University, a specific rank for the UAE was not immediately available.

So what counts as a good diet?

Whole grains: bulghur, corn, oats, quinoa, sorghum and rice

Nuts and seeds: walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, flaxseed, chia, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds

Vegetables: the top 10 healthiest veggies are thought to be kale, spinach, carrots, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green peas, tomatoes, asparagus, bell peppers and okra

Fruits: grapefruit, pineapple, avocado, blueberries, apples, pomegranate, olives, blackberries, bananas, guava and papaya

Legumes: lentils and all manner of beans, such as kidney, soy, black, pinto and navy

Omega-3 fatty acids: salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, sardines, and the nuts and seeds listed above

Omega-6 fatty acids: acai, and liquid vegetable oils such as soybean and safflower

Calcium: seeds, fresh cheese in small quantities, yoghurt and whey protein

Updated: April 4, 2019 12:03 PM

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