A few years ago, more than 130 scientists from 40 different countries came together to study the impact of diet on mortality rates. And last year, they published their findings in the scientific journal The Lancet.
It turns out, having a poor diet causes more deaths globally than any other single risk factor—including high blood pressure. In fact, poor diets cause 11 million total deaths—including about 50 percent of the deaths from cardiovascular disease (CVD)—each year around the world.
More specifically, diets low in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and high in processed meats, added sugars, sodium, and calories are the “leading determinates” of risk for CVD, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and Type II diabetes.
Of course, I prefer to focus on the study’s positive takeaways, which found that improvements in diet could potentially prevent one in every five deaths globally. And according to the study’s lead author, “Generally, the countries that have a diet close to the Mediterranean diet, which has higher intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts and healthy oils [including olive oil and omega-3 fatty acids from fish] are the countries where we see the lowest number of [diet-related] deaths.”
Mediterranean-type diet saves lives
Truthfully, the findings published in The Lancet didn’t surprise me much, as they simply confirm what I’ve been telling you all along about the importance of the Mediterranean-type diet to your health and longevity.
Here’s what did surprise me, however…
Someone at the American Heart Association (AHA) appears to have actually read The Lancet study, as the organization now recommend that doctors routinely conduct dietary assessments for all their patients!
They also admit that most clinicians don’t currently counsel patients about diet and nutrition during routine visits. And they say the reasons why include:
- Lack of training and knowledge about nutrition
- Insufficient time during routine office visits
- Insufficient integration of nutrition into healthcare settings
- Insufficient reimbursement by health insurance companies
- Competing demands during doctor visits (like completing insurance forms)
I understand that most primary care doctors feel they don’t have the time or the training to educate patients about nutrition.
But they should make it a priority. Because as this study shows—a poor diet is the single, greatest risk factor affecting their patients!
Plus, some doctors still seem to find time to hector their patients about alcohol consumption and smoking (which applies to just 10 percent of the population). So how about finally making some time for what we now know causes 50 percent of CVD deaths?!
After all, research shows when primary care physicians do take the time to bring up diet and nutrition, their patients are receptive!
Now, there are three good “rapid” dietary assessments that primary care physicians can use during routine visits. Doctors can personally ask the questions—or they can have the patients fill out the survey themselves.
But, of course, both options have their drawbacks.
For example, when doctors directly ask the questions, patients may feel judged for their poor dietary choices and may give less-than-honest answers. On the flip side, research shows when patients fill out health surveys themselves, they tend to underestimate their degree of poor dietary choices and overestimate their degree of good dietary choices.
In the end, it doesn’t matter exactly how the conversation starts…it’s just important that it starts! So, make sure you find a personal physician who treats you as an individual and talks to you about the importance of diet to your health and longevity.
As a reminder, a healthy Mediterranean-type diet includes plenty of:
- Full-fat dairy, including butter, eggs, cheeses, and yogurt (Remember, in the Mediterranean, they eat cheese at each and every meal. But health experts typically overlook that point because it doesn’t fit their “anti-fat” narrative.)
- Wild-caught fish and seafood
- Grass-fed and -finished, free-range, organic beef, chicken, and especially lamb, which has the best nutritional profile of all meats
- Nuts and seeds
- Six to eight servings of fresh fruits and vegetables each day
- Alcohol, in moderation
An easy way to adopt this healthy, balanced diet is by avoiding the grocery store’s center aisles, which contain all the processed junk food. Instead, stick to the displays around the perimeter of the store, which contain all the whole, unprocessed foods. Or better yet, find a local farmer’s market!
You can learn much more about the connection between diet and disease in this month’s November Insiders’ Cures newsletter (“What’s behind America’s poor diet and chronic health problems?”). If you’re not yet a newsletter subscriber, it just takes one click.
In addition, for more insight into nutritional approaches for protecting your heart as you get older, I encourage you to check out my Heart Attack Prevention and Repair Protocol. This innovative, online learning tool outlines the natural, heart-healing pathway to low blood pressure, a stroke-free brain, and never having to take a dangerous heart medication again. To learn more, or to enroll today, click here now!
“Health effects of dietary risks in 195 countries, 1990-2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017.” The Lancet, 2019; 393: 1958-1972.
“Rapid Diet Assessment Screening Tools for Cardiovascular Disease Risk Reduction Across Healthcare Settings: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association.” Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. 2020;13. doi.org/10.1161/HCQ.0000000000000094
“Top Things to Know: Rapid Diet Assessment Screening Tools for CVD Risk Reduction Across Healthcare Settings.” Professional Heart Daily, 8/7/20. (professional.heart.org/en/science-news/rapid-diet-assessment-screening-tools-for-cvd-risk-reduction-across-healthcare-settings/top-things-to-know)