The world’s largest scientific collaboration that gathers information on population health has a few nasty surprises this year: the new trends in illnesses points to an unnecessary reason for people to die.
One can understand that illnesses like the plague or pneumonia and the depression or severe drought can wipe out millions, but there’s a surprise danger on the horizon:
Yes, you read that right.
This is the finding of the yearly Annual Global Burden of Disease study that was published recently.
People are putting on too much weight and it’s killing them. The many illnesses related to being too heavy are also increasing at an alarming rate. High body mass index (BMI) is the fourth largest contributor to the loss of healthy life, after high blood pressure, smoking, and high blood sugar, the study found.
Poor diet was found to be the second highest risk factor for early death after smoking. One in five deaths worldwide is linked to poor diet.
Prof John Newton, director of health improvement at Public Health England, told The Guardian that the numbers are quite shocking. “I don’t think people realise how quickly the focus is shifting towards non-communicable disease [such as cancer, heart disease and stroke] and diseases that come with development, in particular related to poor diet,” he said.
Non-communicable diseases caused nearly 40 million or 72% of all deaths worldwide in 2016. Ischaemic heart disease was the leading cause of premature death worldwide.
In case you’re wondering about the particulars of a poor diet, the study highlights diets low in whole grains, fruit, nuts and seeds, fish oils and high in salt as risk factors for poor health. So, ditch those sandwiches and nibble on nuts and seeds.
Obesity is counted among a “triad of trouble” highlighted by the research. Obesity together with conflict, and mental illness, including substance abuse, comprise a “triad of troubles,” and prevent people from living long, healthy lives.
Before you go, there is good news also.
Fewer children died in 2016. For the first time in modern history fewer than 5 million children under age 5 died in one year. Compare this to 1990 when 11 million died.
People are also living longer. Life expectancy in 2016 worldwide was 75.3 years for women and 69.8 for men. Japan has the highest life expectancy at 84 years and the Central African Republic has the lowest at just over 50.
Lower respiratory infections, diarrhea, premature birth, HIV/AIDS, and malaria, have all declined by 30% or more in just one decade.