Unhealthy diets linked to more than 400,000 annual deaths in the US

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Unhealthy eating habits can be linked to more than 400,000 deaths a year in the US due to heart disease and related illnesses, said researchers on Thursday.

According to an analysis presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association in Portland, Americans are eating too much salt and fat and not enough vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Researchers have found that unhealthy diet choices- both a lack of nutritious foods and an excess of less healthy foods- played a role in the cardiovascular deaths of around 222,100 men and 193,400 women in 2015 in the US.

“Low intake of healthy foods such as nuts, vegetables, whole grains and fruits combined with higher intake of unhealthy dietary components, such as salt and trans fat, is a major contributor to deaths from cardiovascular disease in the United States,” said lead study author Ashkan Afshin.

The analysis was based on data from sources including the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey for 1990-2012 and food availability data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The researchers evaluated the extent to which leading dietary risk factors were linked to heart and blood vessel disease deaths.

It was found that low intake of nuts and seeds was linked to 11.6 percent of deaths and low vegetable intake was linked to 11.5 percent of deaths. In addition, the low intake of whole grains and excess salt were linked to 10.4 percent and 9 percent of deaths, respectively.

“Our results show that nearly half of cardiovascular disease deaths in the United States can be prevented by improving diet,” said Afshin, who is an assistant professor of global health at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Seattle.

The American Heart Association recommends eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fish, and poultry. It also suggests limiting consumption of fatty or processed red meat, sugary soft drinks, salt, saturated and trans fats.