Global Burden of Disease study links 1 in 5 deaths to poor diet
15 Sep 2017 --- Poor diet is linked to 1 in 5 deaths, with a high blood glucose, high blood pressure, high body mass index (BMI) and high total cholesterol all in the top ten leading risk factors for death globally. These are among the latest estimates for the state of the world's health by the Global Burden of Disease study (GBD), published in The Lancet. The authors note that the relatively poor track record for global dietary risk reduction might in part reflect low investment, as compared to curative health care, as well as the continuing challenges of improving many risky behaviors.
The GBD is the only annual, comprehensive, peer-reviewed assessment of global trends in health, providing global and national estimates on more than 330 diseases, causes of death, and injuries in 195 countries and territories worldwide. The study is coordinated by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, Seattle (USA), and involves more than 2,500 collaborators from across more than 130 countries and territories.
In 2016, the total number of live births was 128.8 million; the total number of deaths was 54.7 million (up from 42.8 million in 1970). Mortality rates have declined across all age groups, with the greatest progress made in under 5 mortality. Deaths among children under the age of 5 decreased to fewer than 5 million in 2016 for the first time, down from 16.4 million in 1970.
Today, the average global life expectancy for women is 75.3 years, and 69.8 years for men. Japan has the highest life expectancy (83.9 both sexes combined), and the Central African Republic has the lowest (50.2 years).
As life expectancy increases, so too do the years lived with ill health. The proportion of total life spent with ill health is higher for lower income countries, compared to higher income countries.
Several countries, including Ethiopia, the Maldives, Nepal, Niger, Portugal and Peru have seen large increases in life expectancy, far beyond what would be expected based on the country's level of development. These exemplar countries may provide information on successful policies that have helped accelerate progress on health.
Diseases, causes of death and disability
Non-communicable diseases accounted for 72.3 percent of all deaths (39.5 million) in 2016. Ischemic heart disease was the leading cause of premature mortality in all regions, apart from in low-income countries where the leading cause was lower respiratory infections. Globally, ischemic heart disease caused a total of 9.48 million deaths in 2016 – an increase of 19 percent globally since 2006. Diabetes caused 1.43 million deaths globally in 2016, an increase of 31.1 percent since 2006.
Overall, deaths from infectious diseases have decreased. Exceptions included dengue which saw a significant increase, causing 37,800 deaths in 2016, and extensively drug resistant tuberculosis which caused 10,900 deaths in 2016.
While significant progress has been made since 2006, 1.03 million people died from HIV/AIDS (45.8 percent decrease since 2006), 719,500 died from malaria (25.9 percent decrease), and 1.21 million died from tuberculosis (20.9 percent decrease) in 2016.
Behavioral and environmental risk factors
Tobacco was responsible for more than 7.1 million deaths. Poor diets were associated with nearly 1 in 5 (18.8 percent) of all deaths. In particular, diets low in whole grains, fruit, nuts and seeds, fish oils and high in salt were the most common dietary risk factors. In addition, high blood glucose, high blood pressure, high body mass index (BMI) and high total cholesterol, were all in the top ten leading risk factors for death for men and women globally. Because of the strong interrelationship between these risks, the authors note that the true driver is likely to be diet and BMI, exacerbated by blood glucose levels and high blood pressure.
“Our findings indicate people are living longer and, over the past decade, we identified substantial progress in driving down death rates from some of the world's most pernicious diseases and conditions, such as under age-5 mortality and malaria,” says Dr Christopher Murray, IHME's director. “Yet, despite this progress, we are facing a triad of trouble holding back many nations and communities - obesity, conflict, and mental illness, including substance use disorders.”
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