Unhealthy Diet Linked to 400,000 Cardiovascular Disease Deaths Each Year

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vegetables and fruits

If you’re eating a diet that’s low in healthy food and/or high in unhealthy foods, you’re at greater risk of dying from heart and blood vessel diseases. That was the conclusion of researchers who found that eating this type of diet was linked to more than 400,000 deaths from cardiovascular diseases in 2015.

The study authors reported that eating more healthy foods and fewer foods loaded in salt and trans fats could save tens of thousands of lives in the United States 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 Ashkan Afshin, M.D., M.P.H., M.Sc., Sc.D., lead study author and acting assistant professor of global health at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle. The institute is home of the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study, which conducted this new analysis. “Our results show that nearly half of cardiovascular disease deaths in the United States can be prevented by improving diet.”

In the study, presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health 2017 Scientific Sessions, scientists set out to discover the extent to which diet impacts heart and blood vessel disease. The study authors used data gathered from 1990-2012 as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and food availability data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations as well as other sources.

The researchers compared cardiovascular deaths in 2015 with the type of diets eaten. They observed that poor dietary choices including eating more unhealthy foods and less healthy foods was to blame for the deaths of an estimated 222,100 men and 193,400 women.

The study authors also divided up food by category and investigated the degree to which each dietary category was associated with cardiovascular disease deaths:

  • Low intake of nuts and seeds (11.6 percent of deaths)
  • Low intake of vegetables (11.5 percent of deaths)
  • Low intake of whole grains (10.4 percent of deaths)
  • Excess salt (9 percent of deaths)

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fish, and poultry while eating less fatty or processed red meat. The AHA also suggests avoiding sugary soft drinks and limiting intake of salt (sodium) and saturated and trans fats.

Source: Ashkan Afshin, Patrick Sur. Unhealthy diets linked to more than 400,000 cardiovascular deaths. American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health 2017 Scientific Sessions. March 9, 2017.