A 27-year-long global study of diet and health has led to some eye-opening conclusions, according to this article that was recently carried on CNN. “Which risk factor is responsible for more deaths around the world than any other?” asks the article. “Not smoking. Not even high blood pressure. It’s a poor diet.”
Avoiding a Poor Diet Means Choosing the Right Foods
Typically, when we hear the term “poor diet,” we expect to hear the customary litany of bad foods to avoid: red meat, sugar, soda and the like. But what sets this study apart is its finding that the biggest problems stem not from eating the wrong foods, but from not eating enough of the right ones. Lead author Ashkan Afshin, assistant professor from the University of Washington, told CNN, “While traditionally all the conversation about healthy diet has been focused on lowering the intake of unhealthy food, in this study, we have shown that, at the population level, a low intake of healthy foods is the more important factor, rather than the high intake of unhealthy foods.” Afshin adds, “In many countries, poor diet now causes more deaths than tobacco smoking and high blood pressure.”
Here at AgingOptions we bring this to your attention because it’s far more important to prevent health problems than to have to deal with them later in life. As Rajiv Nagaich puts it, “Staying out of nursing homes and making sure you don’t become a burden to your loved ones starts with a laser-like focus on preventative care. And we don’t need doctors or specialists to tell us what to do: it is all common sense.” Rajiv calls the CNN article “a good start” to inspire us all to do better, and adds that there’s no time like the present to start paying more attention to healthy eating. It will pay lifelong dividends.
Avoiding a Poor Diet is Important to Everyone, Everywhere
The study that is the subject of the CNN article was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the findings were published in the medical journal, The Lancet. Researchers measured the effects of dietary risks among adults 25 and older over a 27 year period, considering data from 165 countries. “The large study size means these findings are relevant to everyone, no matter where they live,” one expert told CNN. The sheer size and scope of the study makes this, according to Professor Afshin, “the most comprehensive analysis on the health effects of diet ever conducted.”
In analyzing the data, researchers looked at 15 dietary risk factors and their impact on death and disability. These risk factors included common culprits – high sodium, high trans fats, overly sweetened beverages and chemically processed meats – along with less obvious concerns such as low consumption of fruits, nuts, vegetables and fiber. The bottom line was surprising. “Except salt, which was a key risk factor in most countries, the study found red and processed meats, trans fats and sugary drinks toward the bottom of the risk chart for most countries,” according to CNN. “In fact, more than half of all global diet-related deaths in 2017 were due to just three risk factors: eating too much salt, not enough whole grains and not enough fruit. Those risks held true regardless of socioeconomic level of most nations.”
To put this in perspective, study authors estimate that 20 percent of global deaths in 2017 – about 11 million in all – could be linked to “too much sodium and a lack of whole grains, fruit and nuts and seeds,” rather than from “diets packed with trans fats, sugar-sweetened drinks and high levels of red and processed meats.”
Putting the Issue of Poor Diet in Perspective
Here on the AgingOptions blog, we’ve presented many articles about the danger of poor eating habits among seniors. This quote from the Alliance for Aging Research says, “Malnutrition can happen to anyone, but older adults are particularly at risk,” partly because “[they] are more likely to have chronic conditions that put them at risk for malnutrition. Cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and other conditions can impact appetite, make eating difficult, change metabolism, and require dietary restrictions.” The Alliance estimates that as many as 65 percent of hospitalized older adults could face malnutrition, and that malnutrition associated with disease costs the U.S. health care system more than $50 billion annually. A healthy diet combined with better exercise habits has been shown to reduce high blood pressure, help curb depression, and even improve cognitive function – good reasons to take our eating habits seriously.
The message for all of us is to get serious about eating well. As Rajiv Nagaich says, “We can’t simply pat ourselves on the back because we’re drinking less soda pop and eating fewer French fries. We have to educate ourselves and make better choices, not just for ourselves but for our kids and grandkids. No more excuses!” We could certainly add the same admonition when it comes to retirement planning: no more excuses. Over the years we have helped educate thousands of men and women in the art and science of retirement planning at our AgingOptions LifePlanning Seminars. During these free information-packed sessions, Rajiv Nagaich will show you a truly comprehensive approach to retirement planning that blends together your finances, your health, your legal protection, your housing options, even your family dynamics, so that they all work seamlessly together. That’s the power – and the beauty – of an AgingOptions LifePlan.
We invite you to join us during the upcoming series of LifePlanning Seminars. You’ll find complete details here on our Live Events page. Simply choose your preferred date and location and register online, or call us for assistance. For the right choices in retirement, the place to begin is at an AgingOptions LifePlanning Seminar. Age on!
(originally reported at www.cnn.com)