Could 1 in 5 Deaths be Prevented by Diet?

One of FFF’s nutritionists, Hannah, investigates the recent headline that stated 1 in 5 deaths are caused by ‘bad diet’, but what does this really mean? 

You may have seen headlines in April (2019) claiming that bad diet causes 1 in 5 deaths. However, what the study actually says, is that improving diet could prevent one in five deaths

The study was published in The Lancet, written by a bunch of top scientists with global expertise, who looked into diet and the relationship to non-communicable disease (mainly cardiovascular disease, but also cancer and diabetes) in 195 countries.

The topline summary, it’s not what we are eating that is killing us, it’s what we aren’t eating…

The Three Leading Dietary Risk Factors: 

  • High sodium intake
  • Low fruit intake 
  • Low wholegrain intake

Essentially, our diets aren’t rich enough in antioxidants, omega 3s, polyphenols, vitamins and minerals, and fibre (read more about why we need fibre in our diet here) which are all protective against poor health. These can be found in veggies, fruit, grains (yes bread & rice, yay!) salmon and olives.

Dietary Factors which are too low

Increasing these = protective for your health

Vegetables, legumes, nuts & seeds, polyunsaturated fats, seafood omega 3, fibre, calcium, dairy milk. 

Dietary Factors which are too high

Decreasing these = protective for your health

Red & processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, trans-fats (hydrogenated oils), sodium. 

So why are we told to increase processed meats and cheese (full of sodium) in ‘low carb diets’, or various other processed ‘health’ foods like gluten free alternatives (full of sodium) while reducing fruits and grains (because apparently, carbs, sugar and gluten are evil?) in the interest of losing fat, when this is the very opposite of what we need to optimise health? 

Yes, too many carbohydrates, too much fruit, too much protein, fat or anything can be detrimental to our health and cause weight gain, but really we shouldn’t be blaming any one food or macronutrient, and perhaps focus on improving the diet overall. 

What should we be increasing?

Carbohydrates from fruit and veggies, and whole grain sources are an excellent source of fibre, nutrients and antioxidants. We should be increasing these. Additionally, they happen to be more filling and satiating which means they can aid with weight management too (win-win). 

What should we be reducing?

If you are going to reduce anything, reduce processed meats, junk food, takeaways and too many refined carbohydrates (think sweets, doughnuts, white bread). But as I mentioned earlier – focus on all those nutrient dense foods you want to add to the diet, not what you want to avoid. 

With the #summerbod goals about to bloom everywhere in the health & wellness industry,  keep in mind that while calorie is king for fat loss, what we eat determines our health and cutting out foods is not the way forward.

Key Takeaways

Remember it’s all about balance – getting a diverse, varied diet is the best way to ensure you are getting all the nutrients needed to nourish the body. For optimal health, try to focus on increasing your servings of whole and natural foods. And in turn, decreasing your intake of heavily processed food items which often contain preservatives, additives and are overall less nutrient dense.

Don’t get caught up in diet hype, find out about the fads diets our nutritionists want you to avoid this summer.

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