Poor dietary choices lead to 11 million deaths per year, according to a new study.

By Rachel Sylvester
Updated April 08, 2019
Credit: Tim Macpherson/Getty Images

The risks associated with poor eating habits have long been circulated, and yet a new study revealed just how detrimental the dangers of a poor diet can actually be to your long-term health. In a recent study published in The Lancet, it was found that 1 in 5 deaths can be attributed to unhealthy eating habits—a figure that tallies up to a staggering 11 million deaths per year around the globe. The number itself is enough to make you reconsider your current food consumption habits, and the figure is especially astounding since it exceeds the number of annual deaths associated with tobacco and high blood pressure.

Findings are based on research conducted over 27 years throughout 195 countries beginning in 1990. During that time, researchers tracked consumption trends of 15 dietary elements in order to identify a correlation between mortality and the intake of red meat, sodium, sugar-sweetened beverages, processed meat and trans fatty acids.

It was found that unhealthy diets were to blame for an estimated 11 million deaths in 2017, and those individuals who consumed a diet high in sodium and low in both fruits and whole grains were at risk for increased mortality. Of that 11 million, 10 million deaths were attributed to heart disease, 913,000 deaths came a result from obesity-related cancers, and nearly 339,000 deaths were associated with type-2 diabetes.

“This study affirms what many have thought of several years—that poor diet is responsible for more deaths than any other risk factor in the world,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, an author of the study, in a statement to USA Today.

Of the countries that were studied, it was found that the U.S. ranked 43 out of 195 for diet-related deaths, with Israel possessing the lowest mortality rate. Uzbekistan, on the other hand, had the highest number of diet-related deaths.

The study warns against the dangers of consuming red meat, sugar-laden drinks and sodium, however it’s important to note that the issue doesn’t involve consuming too many unhealthy foods; instead, it’s problematic when a diet doesn’t include enough healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.

Rather than focus on avoiding unhealthy foods altogether, researchers suggest shifting our existing approach to food to call for the consumption of healthier alternatives overall. In conclusion: Get your greens in, and eat healthier foods more often for prolonged health.