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Apr 11, 2019 / Richard Hall

Positives and negatives in nutrition

Negatives have dominated nutrition policies over the past 50 years.

Key messages have been to stop eating so much salt, sugar, fat and meat.

Now, at last, a major study published in The Lancet journal on ‘The Global Burden of Disease’ has shifted the focus on to positives.

We could do more good by eating more whole grains, fruit, nuts, seeds and vegetables.

The study assessed consumption trends for 15 dietary factors across 195 countries between 1990 and 2017.

It found that 1 in 5 deaths were associated with poor diet. That amounted to 11 million deaths in 2017 as well as 255 million lost years of healthy life.

Lack of whole grains and fruit accounted for 5 million deaths and 147 million lost years of healthy life.

Excess sodium contributed a further 3 million deaths and 70 million lost years of healthy life.

Fat and sugar were not in the top 3 concerns.

There are three quotes I picked out that summed up the change of advice:

“Suboptimal diet is responsible for more deaths than any other risks globally, including tobacco smoking.”

“While sodium, sugar and fat have been the focus of policy debates over the past two decades, our assessment suggests the leading dietary risk factors are high intake of sodium or low intake of healthy foods such as whole grains, fruit, nuts and seeds, and vegetables.”

“Dietary policies focusing on promoting the intake of components of diet, for which current intake is less than the optimal level, might have a greater effect than policies only targeting sugar and fat, highlighting the need for comprehensive food system interventions to promote the production, distribution and consumption of these foods across nations.”

I noticed one other conclusion worthy of note:

“Globally, consumption of all healthy foods and nutrients was suboptimal in 2017.” The largest gaps included milk.

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