In case you missed it, the most authoritative assessment of how people are dying in every country in the world was released last week. The conclusion: daily diet is responsible for 1 in 5 deaths globally, according to ‘The Global Burden of Disease Study’ published in The Lancet. Put another way, this makes food choices a larger worldwide killer than smoking.
To be clear, the study focuses specifically on the quality of what we eat rather than obesity per se. The correlation between our food choices and major killers such as heart disease and cancer is, unsurprisingly, very strong. The researchers concluded that, in general, we consume too much salt and processed meat and too little in the way of grains, nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables.
Globally, people consume roughly twice the level of salt that is recommended. Its effect is particularly pernicious since excess salt consumption has consistently been linked to higher blood pressure and, in turn, an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. By contrast, the average person consumes just 12% of the advised level of nuts and seeds and only 23% of the recommended level of whole grains. Foods such as these are demonstrably ‘cardio-protective’, per the study.
No country is perfect in terms of achieving an optimal consumption of the right sorts of foods, although the study ranked Uzbekistan at the bottom of the spectrum and Israel at the top. Rwanda notably scored ahead of the USA. The clear conclusion that we draw from the study is that there is much work to be done. Some of this starts at a state level in terms of improving food education in general terms and possibly taxing unhealthy products (as is already the case with, say, fizzy drinks in some countries). The best advice would seem to be to eat natural – get more of those nuts, fruits and so on. Nonetheless, the opportunity for reformulating many existing processed food products by reducing their salt/ sugar content is also a significant one. Watch this space.
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