Your Crappy Diet Is Literally Killing You, Here’s How

Eating the wrong foods is linked to 1 in 5 deaths globally, according to a new study

Alisa Hrustic |

Your plate full of pizza, doughnuts, and fizzy drinks may eventually catch up with you. A bad diet is the second highest risk factor for early death, only coming in second to smoking, according to the most recent Global Burden of Disease study published in The Lancet.

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For the study, which comes from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, researchers gathered data and trends in health from every country in the world. After analysing the most recent information, they found that eating a poor diet can be linked to nearly 1 in 5 deaths globally. High blood pressure, blood sugar, BMI, and cholesterol—all of which can be caused by a diet full of junk—are also significantly risky.

So, what constitutes a “poor diet” anyway? Not eating enough whole grains, fruits, nuts and seeds, and fish oils were associated with the greatest risk for death, the study found. “We need to look really carefully at what are the healthy compounds in diets that provide protection,” Said Dr Christopher Murray, director of the IHME told The Guardian.

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It’s no secret that whole grains are great for your heart health, which is pretty important, since heart disease kills more men each year than all types of cancer combined. Foods like oatmeal and brown rice are loaded with fibre, which helps keep you full, can improve your cholesterol, and lower your risk of stroke, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, according to the American Heart Association.

Plus, research consistently points to the disease-fighting benefits of fruits and vegetables, thanks in part to their high antioxidant levels—yet 87 percent of Americans don’t eat enough vegetables, while 76 percent skimp on fruit, according to the Centres of Disease Control and Prevention.

As for nuts, seeds, and fish? They’re all great sources of healthy fat and staples in the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet. Fish like salmon and tuna are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, a type of fat known to fight inflammation, a common precursor to heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer.

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The researchers looked at global data, so it’s worthy to note that some countries may not have as much access to these foods as others. Still, if you’re one to frequent the drive-thru, take this as your cue to load your plate with brown rice, salmon, and lots of produce instead—your body will thank you for the years to come.

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