Unhealthy eating has been named as the most common cause of premature death around the globe, new data has revealed.
A poor diet – which involves eating too few vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains and too much red meat, salt and sugar - was shown to be a bigger killer than smoking and alcohol.
But for the UK, unhealthy eating is still pipped to the top spot of high-risk factors in early death by smoking. Low levels of activity are at number 5, and alcohol use is at number 9.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in the US has found that high blood pressure, to which diet, exercise and obesity are key factors, is the biggest cause of premature death in countries across the world.
The best diets: according to the experts
The best diets: according to the experts
1/10 Flexitarian Diet
The combination of flexible and vegetarian. This diet is all about adding things to your diet, not taking them away. By adding more tofu, beans, fruits, veggies, eggs, whole grains and seeds to your diet you should feel full on fewer calories.
Flickr / Brian
2/10 DASH Diet
Ranked at number one, the DASH diet was developed to prevent and lower high blood pressure by reducing salt intake.
Flickr / Dubravko Sorić
3/10 TLC Diet
Created to cut high cholesterol and endorsed by the American Heart Association.
4/10 Mayo Clinic diet
Focuses on everything you were told to eat as a child: whole grains, fruit and vegetables.
Flickr / Rochelle
5/10 Mediterranean Diet
Eat as the Mediterranean people do: A diet low in red meat, sugar and saturated fats but high in produce and nuts. And lots of olives.
Flickr / Meal Makeover Moms
6/10 Weight Watchers
Works with a points system where healthy foods have fewer points. Group meetings offer emotional support and encouragement, meaning it has been a successful program since 1963.
Flickr / Mike Mozart
7/10 Volumetrics Diet
Works on the idea that people eat roughly the same amount every day, regardless of the calories. So this diet is all about the approach to eating rather than a structured diet. It divides food into four groups depending on their energy density. For example, more veggies on top of pasta instead of cheese.
Flickr / Jennifer
8/10 Jenny Craig
For encouragement, on this diet you get a meal plan and a counselling session every week with a consultant. You get three meals a day, including French toast, but unfortunately you can’t really go out for meals.
Flickr / Dennis Wilkinson
9/10 Biggest Loser Diet
Eat regular meals with whole grains, fruit, vegetables and lean protein, get more exercise and keep a food journal. Fairly simple.
Flickr / Pete Thomas
10/10 Ornish Diet
Developed by Dean Ornish in his 2007 book “The Spectrum”. He categorizes food in to five groups from most (1) to least (5) healthy. He pinpoints emotional support as a powerful tool for weight loss.
Flickr / kris krüg
And unhealthy eating overall, characterised by high consumption of red meat and sugar-sweetened beverages, contributed to more deaths than any other factor - because they contribute towards ischemic heart disease, strokes and diabetes.
The study was the most recent update on the 2010 report on the Global Burden of Disease, considered the most authoritative work on the causes of ill-health.
“There’s great potential to improve health by avoiding certain risks like smoking and poor diet as well as tackling environmental risks like air pollution," IHME director Dr Christopher Murray told The Guardian. “The challenge for policymakers will be to use what we know to guide prevention efforts and health policies.”
Data from 108 countries from 1990 to 2013 was used in the study, and the number of risk factors in premature deaths was increased from 67 to 79, to provide a broader study.
Happily, in the UK all the risk factors have decreased since 1990 - with the exception of alcohol, which has increased by 9.5% over that time. Blood pressure and cholesterol saw the biggest drop, at about 55% each.
High-income countries tended to have smoking as their number one cause of premature death. In India and elsewhere in south and south-east Asia, air pollution was a leading problem.
In Latin America and the Middle East, meanwhile, obesity came out as the biggest risk for poor health.
But sub-Saharan Africa has a different pattern of risks from the rest of the world. Its combination of childhood undernutrition, unsafe water, unsafe sex and alcohol use is unseen to the same degree elsewhere.