Diet causes half of all deaths due to heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes in the US, a new study claims.
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Meals heavy in sodium and unprocessed meats - and not in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains - are particularly contributing to the rise of cardiometabolic diseases.
Researchers warn that these dietary habits not only influence many of the risk factors for cardiometabolic health, but also pose substantial health and economic burdens.
In the last study looking at cost, US medical expenditures attributable to these risk factors totaled $80 billion, $27 billion of which was spent on prescription drugs.
The study, conducted at Tufts University in Massachusetts, used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, estimated associations of diet and disease from studies and clinical trials, and estimated disease-specific national mortality from the National Center for Health Statistics.
Researchers examined mortality due to heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes in 2012.
They looked at the consumption of 10 foods and nutrients associated with cardiometabolic diseases: fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds, whole grains, unprocessed red meats, processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), polyunsaturated fats, seafood omega-3 fats, and sodium.
In 2012, there were more than 702,000 cardiometabolic deaths in US adults. Of those deaths, more than 318,000 - approximately 45 percent - were associated with a poor diet.
The difference varied in sex, with a larger proportion of men dying than women, consistent with generally unhealthier dietary habits in men.
Cardiometabolic deaths due to 'suboptimal diet' - as the researchers referred to it - were far more likely to occur in individuals between the ages of 25 and 54 than those 55 and older, by up to twice as much.
The risk factors increased by 10 percent in blacks and Hispanics as opposed to whites, and between five and 10 percent in individuals with low or medium education vs high education.
As a percentage of annual cardiometabolic deaths, diet-associated mortality declined for polyunsaturated fats, nuts and SSBs.
It remained relatively stable for whole grains, fruits, vegetables, seafood omega-3 fatty acids and processed meats.
However, there was an increase for sodium and unprocessed red meats.
'These results should help identify priorities, guide public health planning, and inform strategies to alter dietary habits and improve health,' the authors wrote.
Diabetes and heart disease in particular have been huge causes for concern in the US as those diagnosed and dying from the conditions continue to skyrocket.
In 2012, more than 29 million Americans were reported to have diabetes, and the disease remains the seventh-leading cause of death in the US.
For the last several years, heart disease has held the top spot as the leading cause of death in the US. About 610,000 people die of the condition every year - that's one in every four deaths.
And the role of diabetes as a major risk factor for heart disease is well-documented from high blood glucose levels damaging nerves and blood vessels.
Several US initiatives have attempted to curb the growing rise of unhealthy diet trends and their disease-associated risks.
Several cities, such as Berkeley, California, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, have issued a soda tax in an effort to cut down on the number of Americans drinking SSBs.
And last year, the FDA released a draft of new sodium-reduction targets for dozens of categories of foods, from bakery goods to soups.
In a study-associated editorial, written by Dr Noel Mueller, from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the need for diet policy changes in the US was discussed.
He wrote: 'Policies that affect diet quality, not just quantity, are needed.
'Policy decisions should also consider accessibility to and costs of components of a healthier diet, sustainability in the United States and on a global scale,and the potential environmental effects of their recommendations.'
SOURCE Mary Kekatos, Daily Mail
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