You don’t smoke, your blood pressure is in-check, and you’re not obese. So what if you don’t carefully watch your diet, right?


According to a recent study published in the Lancet, poor diet is the leading cause of death worldwide—contributing to more deaths than well-know risk factors like tobacco use and high blood pressure.

Researchers analyzed dietary habits of adults aged 25 and older between 1990 and 2017 across 195 countries. They compared those findings with how it affected their chances of an early death.

In 2017, they found that 11 million deaths (that’s 22 percent) of the deaths over that time frame were caused by poor diet. The breakdown? About 9.5 million deaths were due to cardiovascular disease. Another 900,000 were due to diet-related cancers. More than 330,000 deaths were from diabetes, and more than 136,000 deaths were caused by kidney diseases.

Not only were there more dietary-related deaths, but researchers found that poor diet was linked to a higher number of years living with a disability before death.

High blood pressure and tobacco use were linked to 10.4 million and 8 million deaths, respectively.

So what foods did these poor diets include?

The three things that were most strongly associated with early death were: high sodium intake (more than 3 grams a day); low intake of whole grains (less than 125 grams a day), and low intake of fruits (less than 250 grams a day). Diets low in nuts, seeds, and vegetables were also associated with early death.

The takeaway?

Limit your sodium and added sugar. Make your carbs whole grains whenever you can, and start snacking on seeds and nuts (they also make great additions to salads, smoothies, and parfaits, too!). And of course, yet another study telling you to eat those fruits and veggies! Summer is easy, but read about what’s in-season even in January.

Also see,  Soda can cause cancer tumors to grow, study shows.

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Meghan is a full-time writer exploring the fun facts behind food. She lives a healthy lifestyle but lives for breakfast, dessert and anything with marinara. She’s thrown away just as many meals as she’s proud of.