There is a big emphasis in the fitness community on avoiding unhealthy foods, but a recent paper indicates that may not be the best way to go about being healthy.
Making sure you're getting enough of the healthier foods may actually be the key to lowering your risk of certain preventable diseases.
In a study published in medical journal The Lancet on April 3rd analyzed the health effects of dietary risks on people around the world. An accompanying editorial article by Drs. Nita G. Forouhi and Nigel Unwin of Cambridge University's School of Clinical Medicine Epidemiology Unit explained the findings and drew some conclusions.
Dr. Ashkan Afshin, assistant professor of Health Metrics Sciences at the University of Washington, spoke with CBS News about the impact of poor dietary choices:
"Poor dietary habits, which is a combination of high intake of unhealthy foods, such as red meat, processed meat, and sugar-sweetened beverages and a low intake of healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and seeds, overall causes more deaths than any other risk factors globally."
"While historically the conversation around diet and nutrition has been focused on a high intake of unhealthy foods, mainly salt, sugar and fats and reducing their consumption, our study shows that in many countries, the main problem is low intake of healthy foods."
The study found that diet actually had a higher impact than smoking!
"Our findings show that suboptimal diet is responsible for more deaths than any other risks globally, including tobacco smoking."
Forouhi and Unwin reiterated that just three factors contributed to more than half of deaths:
"More than half of all diet-related deaths and two-thirds of diet-related DALYs (Disability-Adjusted Life Years) were attributable to just three factors: high intake of sodium, low intake of whole grains, and low intake of fruit."
The paper also noted that those with limited income struggled more, likely because of the lack of access to proper nutrition.
"there was a disproportionate burden in low-income settings."
Forouhi and Unwin note that the findings of the study indicate that we should move away from restricting intake of certain food groups to encouraging people to consume more of others.
"The current GBD findings provide evidence to shift the focus, as the authors argue, from an emphasis on dietary restriction to promoting healthy food components in a global context."
"This evidence largely endorses a case for moving from nutrient-based to food-based guidelines."
Twitter users were not unhappy about the news.
@washingtonpost I knew it. No one should diet.— Andrew Hang (@Andrew Hang)1554492183.0
@TheLancet @IHME_UW Ready to live long & feel great? Then it’s time to stock up on delicious, sexy #wholegrains & n… https://t.co/w4PHszvhDu— Lulu Cook, APD/RDN (@Lulu Cook, APD/RDN)1554533167.0
Others weren't surprised, and noted the that stress is also often a factor.
@washingtonpost Poverty/precarious work situations w/ the stress that provides and a lack of access to healthy food kills the most— rachel atwood (@rachel atwood)1554491899.0
This study seems to indicate that it is more important for those wanting to eat healthier to focus more on what they can add to their diet, rather than just what they need to remove.
That is not to say they should go ahead and eat whatever they want, all things in moderation, but only cutting out unhealthy foods may not be enough.