Eating Poorly a Factor in 1 in Every 5 Deaths Worldwide

Faith Castro
September 18, 2017

"In Australia, we have made substantial health progress in the past 20 years", says GBD co-founder and University of Melbourne Laureate Professor Alan Lopez, an worldwide authority on the global burden of disease and using health data to develop health systems and policy.

Malnourishment and unhealthy eating habits are killing one-fifth of the world's population, while in India deaths due to non-communicable diseases such as cancer, heart and kidney diseases are rising alarmingly, shows a new study by British medical journal The Lancet.

The number of deaths caused by coronary heart disease has increased by nearly one fifth (19%) in the past ten years globally, killing a total of 9.48m individuals in 2016. Guns may be the direct cause of more deaths, but there was an overall 3% decrease in fatalities caused by self-harm during the decade ending in 2016, the study indicated.

Back pain, migraine headaches and other musculoskeletal disorders are the top causes of years lived with disability (YLDs) in Australia.

According to the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study's latest estimates for the state of the world's health, a total of 1.1 billion people have mental health and substance use disorders.

"These need to be identified early and programme and policy level interventions need to be put in place immediately in order to reduce the burden of NCDs in future". Diabetes caused 1.43mn deaths globally in 2016, an increase of 31.1% since 2006.

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The study shows that a year ago, there were 128.8 million live births and 54.7 million deaths.

Coordinated by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in the United States city of Seattle, the study involved more than 2,500 collaborators from around the world. "In addition, high blood glucose, high blood pressure, high body mass index [BMI], and high cholesterol were all in the top ten leading risk factors for death for men and women globally". A box's size represents the proportion of deaths attributed to that cause. The findings revealed that in 2016, poor diet was associated with almost one in five deaths worldwide.

Nations and people are likely to tackle - or at least attempt to tackle - those diseases that kill at high rates, Murray noted, since death is a powerful motivator.

In absolute terms, India recorded the largest number of under-5 deaths in 2016 at 0.9 million, followed by Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which recorded 0.7 million and 0.3 million deaths, respectively.

Sugary drinks are unsafe for health and we need to know about healthy compounds in diets that will provide protection, he said.

"Mental illnesses tend not to discriminate based on income", Theo Vos, a study co-author and professor of global health at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, wrote in an email. "People suffering from both types of disorders present considerable extra challenges to health services as one problem can interfere with the successful treatment of the other". Within the past decade, diabetes rose in rank order from 17th to 9th as a leading cause of death in low-middle income countries. The team also added that a triad of troubles - obesity, conflict, and mental illness - is fast emerging as a stubborn barrier to active lifestyles.

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