A new study found that unhealthy eating habits are the cause of 1 in 5 deaths worldwide, thus being more harmful than tobacco and high blood pressure.
Not eating enough healthy foods is actually more hazardous than eating too many unhealthy foods, the study indicated.
"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," an assistant professor of Health Metrics Sciences at the University of Washington, study author Dr. Ashkan Afshin, told CBS News.
Scientists focused on diets low in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, milk, fiber, calcium, seafood omega-3 fatty acids, polyunsaturated fats, and diets high in red meat, processed meat, sugar-sweetened beverages, trans fatty acids, and sodium.
The study, published in the journal The Lancet, revealed that around 11 million deaths were caused by poor diets in 2017, compared with 10 million deaths from heart disease, 913,000 deaths from obesity-related cancers, and nearly 339,000 deaths from type 2 diabetes.
Diets high in sodium, low in whole grains as well as in fruits, were found to be the reason behind more than half of all deaths around the world.
"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," Afshin stated.
"This concept of increasing intake of healthy food should be added to current policy debates for improving diets. It's important both policy makers and the food industry work together to be part of the solution to increase the consumption of not only fruits and vegetables but also whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes,” he added.