Times of India

Sushmi Dey | TNN | Apr 7, 2019, 06:36 IST

NEW DELHI: Unhealthy diet is responsible for more premature deaths than tobacco, high blood pressure or any other health risk, a new study published in Lancet has indicated. Dietary risks were the second biggest factor behind deaths and disabilities in 2017 in India, following on the heels of malnutrition.

Dietary risk in India has also increased by 35% in a decade since 2007 when it ranked fourth after malnutrition, air pollution and the risk of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

Though malnutrition continues to top the list of risk factors driving most deaths and disabilities in India, its overall impact has declined by 35.3%.

While sugar and transfats are harmful, the study highlights the impact of the low consumption of healthy diet constituting of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and legumes.

In India, low intake of whole grains was the leading dietary risk factor for deaths and disability, findings of the study show. Heart attacks and strokes are the main diet-related causes of death, followed by cancers and type 2 diabetes, say researchers.

“Although sodium, sugar, and fat have been the main focus of diet policy debate in the past two decades, our assessment shows that the leading dietary risk factors for mortality are diets high in sodium, low in whole grains, low in fruit, low in nuts and seeds, low in vegetables, and low in omega-3

fatty acids; each accounting for more than 2% of global deaths,” the study said suggesting a global shift in policy to promote healthy diet while reducing unhealthy foods such as sweetened beverages and junk food high on salt and trans-fat.

The research is part of the Global Burden of Disease study by Seattle-based Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).

However, the findings have also raised concerns among nutrition experts in India, who feel the study is shifting the focus of debate from unhealthy food.

“While I don’t disagree that people should eat more of whole grains and vegetables etc, the research is not dealing with marketing of unhealthy foods which leads to displacement of healthy foods,” renowned nutrition advocate Arun Gupta says.

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Globally, poor diet was responsible for 10.9 million deaths, or 22% of all deaths among adults. Additionally, 255 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) — which equal the sum of life years lost and years lived with disability — were because of poor diet. Cardiovascular disease was the leading cause, followed by cancers and diabetes. Nearly half – 45% – were in people younger than 70.

The study found that eating and drinking better could prevent one in five deaths around the world.

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