Ensuring that American diets include the right amount of certain foods may help cut deaths from heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes by almost half, suggests a new study from Tufts University in Boston.
About 45 percent of deaths from those causes in 2012 could be blamed on people eating too much or too little of 10 types of foods, researchers found.
The study's findings are drawn from a variety of sources, including National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys collected from 1999 to 2002 and 2009 to 2012.
10 foods, nutrients tied to heart disease, stroke, diabetes
The following dietary components were identified to be closely tied to heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes: sodium, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, unprocessed red meats, processed meats, polyunsaturated fats like soybean or corn oils, seafood, omega-3 fats and sugar-sweetened beverages.
Based on participants' food diaries, the researchers estimated that 318,656 of the 702,308 deaths from heart disease, stroke or type 2 diabetes were tied to people getting too much or too little of those 10 foods or dietary factors.
Too much sodium was tied to 66,508 deaths, for example, while not enough nuts and seeds was tied to 59,374 deaths. Too much processed meat was tied to 57,766 deaths, too little fatty fish to 54,626 deaths, and too few vegetables to 53,410 deaths.
There were 52,547 deaths attributed to too little fruit and 51,695 deaths tied to too many sugar-sweetened beverages.
The burden of poor diets wasn't equally distributed, however.
During the course of the study, men were more likely than women to die of cardiometabolic diseases related to suboptimal diets. Younger people were more at risk than older people. Blacks or Hispanics were more at risk than whites. People with less education were also more at risk than their more educated counterparts.
Healthy eating is key to disease prevention
The researchers did find that deaths in the U.S. from cardiometabolic diseases decreased by more than 25 percent between the two survey periods. During that time, people's diets improved, as they consumed more polyunsaturated fats, nuts and seeds, whole grains and fruits and fewer sugar-sweetened beverages.
Target one dietary component and tackle it. When you improve that one, move on to another.
Source: JAMA, online March 7, 2017.
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