Mind and Body

3 diets significantly cut people's life expectancy -- study

We have bad news for salt lovers everywhere.

Unsplash / Miguel Andrade

For some of us, the quest to live longer requires thinking far outside the box of everyday health. It can involve everything from supplements to stem cells, to telomere lengthening. But one familiar, daily necessity has tremendous power to extend life — and cut it short. And that is the food you eat.

Following one of three diets may cause millions of people to die prematurely, according to an April 2019 report published in the journal The Lancet.

This is #17 on Inverse’s list of the 25 Most WTF science stories of 2019.

The analysis spanned 195 countries and monitored people’s diets and health across 27 years. As Inverse reported at the time, one in five people around the world die an early death each year because their eating patterns fall into one of three diet habits: excessive salt, not enough whole grains, and eating too little fruit. In 2017 alone, high intake of sodium was responsible for 3 million deaths worldwide, while low intake of whole grains led to 3 million deaths and low intake of fruits led to 2 million deaths.

The scary truth about salt

Salt is the most harmful dietary offender, the study suggests. That is perhaps unsurprising, considering excess sodium consumption is linked to increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure. Salt makes the body accumulate water, causing the heart to work harder. Over time, this overdrive pattern can lead to stiffer blood vessels, and, ultimately, heart problems.

“In 2017, more than half of diet-related deaths and two-thirds of diet-related DALYs were attributable to high intake of sodium,” the team said at the time.

For salt, everyone’s favorite last-minute additive, they recommend consuming no more than three grams.

Where are all the fruit and grains?

While salt stresses out the body, eating fruit and whole grains benefits it. Fruits deliver micronutrients, while grains offer fiber and help regulate blood sugar.

Not eating enough fruit and grains shortened lifespans. Diets lacking whole grains were responsible for 82 million lost years of healthy life, and diets lacking fruits were responsible for 65 million, the study found.

The researchers recommend between 200-300 grams daily, or a little bit more than one cup. To hit optimal whole grain levels, they said to shoot for 125 grams per day, about 1/2 cup.

The researchers also found a deadly diet connection. Eating badly caused more sickness and death on a global scale than any other risk — even smoking. The report underscores the need for targeted public policy, media campaigns, food labels, and tax incentives to guide the public away from salt and toward fruits and grains. Saving those potential lost years depends on it.

As 2019 draws to a close, Inverse is counting down the 25 science stories from this year that made us say “WTF.” Some are incredible, some are icky, and some are just plain strange. This has been #17. Read the original article here.

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