The Global Burden of Disease

A new study, published in April, 2019 in the medical journal, the Lancet, reveals that 22% of all deaths worldwide in adults are due to diet-related causes. This information was derived from measurement of the “Global Burden of Disease”, an investigation into global disability and death from multiple causes that was first undertaken in the early 1990s. This activity is now updated yearly and examines the impact of hundreds of diseases, injuries and risk factors in people from countries around the world.

In 2017, data was collected from adults (25 years and older) from 195 countries. Analysis showed that high intake of unhealthy foods combined with low intake of healthy foods is more harmful to human health than any other risk factor, including tobacco smoking, air pollution and high blood pressure.

Fifteen dietary risk factors that are related to early death and disability were identified. Here they are in order of impact, from highest to lowest;

Diet low in Whole grains
Diet high in Sodium
Diet low in Fruits
Diet low in Nuts and Seeds
Diet low in Vegetables
Diet low in Omega-3 fatty acids
Diet low in Fiber
Diet low in Polyunsaturated fatty acids
Diet low in Legumes
Diet high in Trans fats
Diet high in Sugar-sweetened beverages
Diet low in Calcium
Diet high in Processed meat
Diet low in Milk
Diet high in Red meat


The top three causes of diet-related death and disability, responsible for more than half of the deaths and two-thirds of the years lost to ill-health and disability were the intake of…

Not enough whole grains
Excess sodium
Not enough fruits…

…followed closely by ingesting …

Not enough nuts and seeds
Not enough vegetables
Not enough omega-3 fatty acids
Not enough fiber


Globally, consumption of nearly all healthy foods and nutrients was suboptimal in 2017. Low intake of whole grains is especially ominous as it is the leading dietary risk factor for death among women and the leading dietary risk factor for years lost to ill-health and disability among both men and women.
Paralleling suboptimal healthy food consumption is the daily intake of unhealthy foods, especially sodium, sugar-sweetened beverages and processed meat, which is far above optimal intake worldwide.

Better dietary choices that emphasize less salt and more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds could prevent one out of every five deaths worldwide. In 2017 eleven million deaths worldwide could have been avoided by making these changes. Of these deaths, ten million were caused by cardiovascular disease, 913,000 stemmed from cancer and 339,000 can be laid at the feet of type-2 diabetes.



Afshin, A., Sur, P.J., Fay, K.A., Cornaby, L., Ferrara, G., Salama, J.S., Mullany, E.C. et al.
Health effects of dietary risks in 195 countries, 1990–2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. Open AccessPublished: April 03, 2019 DOI:

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My name is Debra Harley (BScPhm) and I welcome you to my retirement project, this website. Over the course of a life many lessons are learned, altering deeply-rooted ideas and creating new passions.

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