Unbalanced diet can cause death in heart disease, study finds

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A recent study led by researchers at Friedrich Schiller University Jena, in collaboration with the Institute for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Economics (INL) and the nutriCARD Competence Cluster, has highlighted the significant impact of poor diet on cardiovascular deaths across Europe.

Published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, the research indicates that a staggering 1.55 million people die each year in Europe due to diet-related issues, accounting for one in six deaths continent-wide.

The study, covering data from 1990 to 2019, points out that about a third of cardiovascular deaths are directly associated with poor dietary habits.

Theresa Pörschmann, the study’s lead author and a doctoral student at the University of Jena, emphasized the critical role that nutrition plays in these statistics. In the 27 EU member states, about 600,000 premature deaths occur annually, with 112,000 in Germany alone.

The impact varies by country, with Slovakia and Belarus seeing the highest percentage of diet-related cardiovascular deaths at 48% and 47% respectively, while Spain has the lowest at 24%.

Pörschmann notes that the dietary factors contributing to these premature deaths are consistently problematic foods that people consume in improper amounts.

Diets low in whole grains and legumes, coupled with high intake of salt and red meat, were particularly detrimental. The research shows that these dietary choices significantly influence mortality rates, especially from ischemic heart disease, strokes, and hypertensive heart disease.

A notable finding from the study is that one-third of the premature deaths occurred in individuals under the age of 70, indicating that poor diet is cutting lives significantly short across various demographics.

The research considered 13 different types of cardiovascular diseases and 13 dietary factors to provide a comprehensive overview of the situation.

Professor Stefan Lorkowski from the University of Jena pointed out that the study’s scope could underestimate the actual impact, as it does not account for other risk factors like alcohol consumption and excessive calorie intake, which lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes—both significant contributors to cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Toni Meier from the Institute for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Economics echoed this concern, suggesting that the real numbers could be even higher.

An interesting trend noted in the study is the changing proportion of diet-related cardiovascular diseases over the years.

Although the absolute number of cases has increased due to a growing global population and higher life expectancy, the proportion of deaths related to diet had declined until 2015.

However, this trend reversed slightly from 2019 onwards, indicating emerging challenges in dietary health that could be impacting heart disease rates.

The data utilized in this comprehensive analysis were derived from the Global Burden of Disease Study and included a wide geographic area labeled as the “European region” by the World Health Organization, encompassing not only EU member states but also countries in the Middle East and Central Asia such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey.

These findings underline the crucial role that a balanced diet plays in preventing premature deaths, particularly from heart-related illnesses.

The research serves as a wake-up call for public health policies across Europe and potentially globally, highlighting the need for improved dietary guidelines and public health strategies to enhance nutrition and ultimately save lives.

If you care about heart health, please read studies that vitamin K helps cut heart disease risk by a third, and a year of exercise reversed worrisome heart failure.

For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about supplements that could help prevent heart disease, stroke, and results showing this food ingredient may strongly increase heart disease death risk.

The research findings can be found in European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

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