Ask Dr. Nandi: What we aren't eating is killing us, global study finds

Posted at 6:17 PM, Apr 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-09 09:46:56-04

What you’re not eating could be killing you. In fact, a poor diet is being blamed for more deaths worldwide than smoking and high blood pressure.

This was a very interesting study. When the researchers looked at dietary trends for 195 countries, they found three risk factors that were more dangerous than diets high in red and processed meats, trans fats and sugary-filled drinks. And those three risks factors were: not eating enough fruit, not eating enough whole grains and eating too much sodium.

Shockingly, these three factors were responsible for more than half of the diet-related deaths in 2017 worldwide.

The researchers tracked more than 350 disease and injuries and found that cardiovascular disease was responsible for 10 million diet-related deaths globally in 2017. Cancer was next, with 913,000 deaths, followed by Type 2 diabetes with 339,000 deaths.

Now when researchers looked specifically at the US, they found a lack of whole grains was the biggest risk factor. You may be thinking that you’re eating enough grains, but the key is to avoid processed grains. Because these typically have higher calories, added sodium and not much nutrition in them.

Whole grains mean that the grains are in the product in their whole form. Or they’ve been grounded into flour but still have all of the bit and pieces, meaning the bran, germ and endosperm.

Whole grains are better sources of fiber and nutrients like iron, B vitamins, folate and selenium. Healthy options include brown rice, popcorn, barley, oatmeal, buckwheat and bread that’s made of whole-white flour.

Now getting back to this study, I think one of the key messages is that we shouldn’t just focus on eliminating bad food out of our diet. But that we need to focus more on what we should be eating - like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. And when you do that, you won’t eat as many high-sodium processed foods, which will definitely help your health in the long run.