Bad diets are responsible for one in five deaths around the world every year, according to a new study—but the authors say we shouldn't nag people about eating fewer cheeseburgers. Instead, they say the best way to cut down on those deaths is to push the foods people should be eating more of, including nuts, seeds, vegetables, and whole grains. University of Washington epidemiologist Dr. Ashkan Afshin explains to the New York Times that while cutting back on salt should be a priority, the gulf between what we should be doing and are doing is greatest with healthy foods, giving this example: Globally, we eat an average of 27 grams of red meat a day, just a bit higher than the recommended 23 grams. But on average we consume only 3 grams of nuts and seeds a day versus the recommended 21 grams.
The study, published in the Lancet, found that unhealthy diets cause around 11 million preventable deaths around the world every year, more than the 8 million blamed on tobacco. Some 45% of the diet deaths were in people under 70, and 10 million of the 11 million deaths were caused by cardiovascular disease, the Guardian reports. "We find that diet is one of the dominant drivers of health around the world, it's really quite profound," Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, tells the BBC. The study looked at diets in 195 countries over 17 years and concluded no region is eating the ideal amount of healthy food, and almost nobody is eating enough nuts. Israel had the lowest rate of diet-related deaths, at 89 deaths per 100,000 people, while Uzbekistan had the highest, at 892 per 100,000. The US ranked 43rd, with 171 deaths per 100,000 people. (Read more diet stories.)