Unhealthy Food Responsible for Hundreds of Thousands of Deaths Per Year

Unhealthy eating habits involved with more than 400,000 deaths in 2014.

Healthy eating habits are important for preventing chronic diseases, and should be established early in life. Healthy diets include high fruit and vegetable intake, while avoiding unhealthy foods, such as fast food and processed meats.

Eating unhealthy foods or a diet high in unhealthy foods was associated with more than 400,000 cardiovascular disease-related deaths in 2015, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health 2017 Scientific Sessions.

The researchers said that eating heart healthy foods, and less of those with high salt or trans-fat content, could save thousands of lives each year.

“Low intake of healthy foods such as nuts, vegetables, whole grains and fruits combined with higher intake of unhealthy dietary components, such as salt and trans-fat, is a major contributor to deaths from cardiovascular disease in the United States,” said lead study author Ashkan Afshin, MD, MPH, MSc, ScD. “Our results show that nearly half of cardiovascular disease deaths in the United States can be prevented by improving diet.”

The study was designed to determine how diet can influence the risk of heart and blood vessel disease, and included data from the 1990 to 2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and other sources as well.

In 2015 alone, the investigators discovered that individuals were more likely to eat unhealthy foods and stay away from healthier foods. This was estimated to be involved with the deaths of 22,100 men and 193,400 women that year, according to the study.

The authors specifically looked into which dietary components were most likely to impact cardiovascular disease-related deaths.

They found that 11.6% of the deaths were linked to low consumption of nuts and seeds, while low consumption of vegetables accounted for 11.5% of cardiovascular deaths in 2015, according to the study. Low intake of whole grains was associated with 10.4% of the deaths. However, excessive salt intake was linked to 9% of the deaths.

The authors’ approach underscores the importance of a healthy diet, and how certain foods can contribute to high mortality rates. The research also shows which foods are important to incorporate into diet to prevent cardiovascular disease mortality, according to the study.

The American Heart Association has long promoted heart health by recommending that individuals eat a healthy diet that contains fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, while limiting fatty or processed red meat, soft drinks, salt, saturated and trans fats.

These new findings confirm the importance of a healthy diet on cardiovascular and overall health.