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1 in 5 deaths worldwide associated with unhealthy diet habits

Julian Tineo | The Ticker

With the rise of sugar-filled foods this past decade, health is an increasingly major concern to the average person. In 2004, McDonald’s supersized menu items were denounced for their high sodium and calorie count, eventually getting taken off the menu.

One in five people die from poor nutrition, according to an article from The New York Times. Poor nutrition, according to a research study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, leads to cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes. The study was carried out over a period of over 27 years, and observed the average food consumption of adults 25 years or older in 195 countries.

The study used disability-adjusted life-years to calculate the impact diseases had on death counts from poor diet. A DALY is a year taken off a person’s lifespan that they would normally have had the person led a healthy life.

The Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study is a group dedicated to deciding the best planetary health diets by analyzing mortality rates based on dietary risks. In 2017, the GBD reported low amounts of consumption on beneficial foods like nuts, fish, whole grains and milk.

Instead there was a large consumption of processed red meats, sugary foods and sodium. Globally, the GBD recorded “11 million deaths and 255 million disability-adjusted life years.”

Papua New Guinea, Afghanistan and the Marshall Islands have been recorded as having the worst health diets and most deaths because of it. Researchers found a correlation between low income and low intake of fruits and vegetables. For many countries, fast food is cheaper than healthy greens, grain, nuts and fish.

Cheap packaged foods are more prominent in countries like Brazil. Packaged foods have, for the most part, replaced what is called dietary diversity with the expansion of food companies. Food companies like Nestle are spreading globally, trying to replace traditional food with their products. Brazilian customers find ready-to-eat food more appealing than traditional food because of their accessibility and quick consumption.

Packaged foods lack nutrients; as the Nestle head of global product technology Sean Westcott put it, “It’s all about taste in the end.”  Nutrients are not considered in the development of packaged products, which ultimately harms the consumers.

Many countries were found to have a diet that corresponds with their geographical location. Asian countries were recorded to have a high fish diet based on the availability of bodies of water. Fish is rich in omega fatty acids, which helps prevent heart disease, one of the most prevalent causes of death worldwide.

The GBD recorded the United States as having the 43rd worst diet. In 2014, New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on big sugary drinks was rejected by the state court. The ban would have stopped the selling and purchasing of drinks larger than 16 ounces. Many soft drink companies rejoiced at this action as it gave way to continue the sale of big drinks.

In its concluding statements, the GBD argued that people instead of ceasing their consumption of unhealthy foods should instead focus on implementing healthier foods in their diets. The GBD believed that it is too hard to give up many people’s eating habits, which is cause for concern, but in response to this, eating fruits and vegetables can counteract things like high sodium count.

Hot pockets are a great example of what to avoid when trying to create a stable diet. They are cheap, easy to make and have high sodium and calorie counts. Its quick accessibility stands out as dangerous in a dietitian’s eyes.

Food corporations and their subsidiaries should include healthier options on their menus globally. The food industry has not focused enough on the effects of its products on consumers. Fish, nuts, whole grains and milk are key to maintaining a relatively stable life and reducing disease. To decrease mortality rates, it is crucial to look into what you are eating every day.

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