Based on 17 years of data tracking food consumption worldwide, a global study, Health effects of dietary risks in 195 countries, 1990-2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017, published in the British medical journal, The Lancet has convincingly established that longer life is associated with consuming vegetables, fruit, fish and whole grains.
An independent weekly journal founded in Britain in 1823, The Lancet strives to make science widely available so that medicine can serve, and transform society, and positively impact the lives of people. The results of this global study, published earlier this month, concluded that one-fifth of deaths around the world are associated with poor diets and the gap between countries with the lowest proportion of diet related deaths (France, Spain & Peru) and countries with the highest proportion of diet related deaths (Papua New Guinea, Afghanistan and Marshall Islands) is wide.
Little surprise that the United States, ranked 43rd, is not among the countries with the lowest proportion of diet related deaths given the obesity epidemic we have reported on in the past which is spreading globally. And China’s ranking at 140 is some evidence that rapid economic growth does not necessarily correspond to improvement in the health and morbidity of a country’s citizens.
Global eating habits were tracked from 1990 to 2017 in 15 categories: (i) fruits, (ii) vegetables, (iii) legumes, (iv) whole grains, (v) nuts & seeds, (vi) milk, (vii) red meat, (viii) processed meat, (ix) sugar sweetened beverages, (x) intake of fiber from all sources including fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and pulses, (xi) intake of calcium from all sources, including milk, yogurt and cheese, (xii) intake of seafood omega-3 fatty acids, (xiii) intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids from all sources, mainly liquid vegetable oils, (xiv) intake of trans fat from all sources, mainly partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and ruminant products, and (xv) high sodium intake.
Andrew Jacobs in his news report on the study, Global Study Puts Numbers on Diet’s Role in Longevity (4/5/19) in the New York Times, notes the reaction of Dr. Francesco Branca, the top nutritionist at the World Health Organization, who was not involved in the study: “This should be a wake-up call for the world.”
Reporter Jacobs also references the advice of Dr. Nita Gandhi Forouhi, an epidemiologist at the University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine, who wrote a commentary that accompanied the global study: the focus should not only be on foods to cut out of people’s diets. Adding healthier foods to global diets can also reduce mortality. For example, most people, according to the study, eat an average 3 grams a day of nuts and seeds, far less than the 21 grams considered optimal.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Ashkan Afshin, an epidemiologist at the University of Washington, as reported by Andrew Jacobs, also noted the importance of national policies to boost the availability of fruits and vegetables, especially in low-income countries where fresh produce can be costlier than processed food. And Corinna Hawkes, director of the Center for Food Policy at City, University of London, notes that the report “further builds the evidence base around the fact that diet is killing us.”
(Frank W. Barrie, 4/16/19)