Poor diets deadlier than smoking: These are the foods to cut

Smoking, lack of exercise, not getting enough sleep — these are among the many lifestyle factors popularly known to have a negative effect on one's health, but none of them compare to the ramifications of a poor diet, according to a new study. A poor diet is "an equal opportunity killer," according to the study's lead author Dr. Ashkan Afshin, who said the risks can be found regardless of gender, age, and other demographics.

The research was recently published in The Lancet, a medical journal, and it involved an analysis conducted by more than 130 scientists across almost 40 countries. The study found that poor diets were behind 22-percent of all adult deaths in 2017 (10.9 million) — cardiovascular disease was the primary cause, with cancer and diabetes being next in line.

In addition to the deaths, the study found that poor diets were responsible for 255 million DALYs — disability-adjusted life years. This, the researchers explained, are the collective number of years people spent living with disabilities directly linked to poor diets and the number of years lost due to early deaths associated with eating poorly.

Overall, poor diet is behind 16-percent of adult DALYs around the world. Variations in poor diets aside, the study points toward three dietary factors that greatly contributed toward diet-related death and DALYs: high sodium intake, low whole grains consumption, and low amounts of fruit in one's diet. Other risky dietary habits include high red meat consumption, eating large amounts of processed meats, trans fatty acids, and sugary drinks.

The findings indicate that the general public would benefit from a diet that decreases the consumption of sugary drinks, processed foods, red meat, and high sodium products, instead replacing those substances with fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, plant-based proteins, and whole grains.