2.1 million of the 4.3 million cardiovascular deaths in Europe 2016, was due to poor nutrition and are preventable deaths. These premature deaths can be deterred with better nutrition.
The 28 EU member states account for around 900,000, Russia for 600,000 and the Ukraine for 250,000 of these deaths. Every second to third premature cardiovascular death are preventable deaths. These were the findings of an international research team led by Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Germany, the nutriCARD competence cluster and University of Washington, USA, all researching premature deaths.
Based on food consumption and other risk factors, the researchers calculated the percentage of deaths contributed by an unbalanced diet, for example, the under consumption of whole grain products, nuts, seeds and vegetables, as well as the over consumption of salt.
A comparison of the countries revealed clear differences: In 2016, 160,000 deaths (46% cardiovascular deaths) were associated with an unbalanced diet in Germany, 97,000 (41%) in Italy, 75,000 (41%) in Great Britain and 67,000 (40%) in France. In Israel and Spain, however, only one in three premature cardiovascular deaths was diet-related.
Dr Toni Meier from MLU, who heads the study explained further: “In Sweden and Norway the underconsumption of nuts and seeds is most strongly associated with cardiovascular diseases, while in many Central and Eastern European and Central Asian countries the low intake of whole grain products poses the greatest risk. Or to put it another way: Increased consumption of low-fibre white flour products has led to an increase in cardiovascular disease in recent years.”
“We must make better use of the potential of a balanced and healthy diet, otherwise cardiometabolic diseases will be the cause of even more preventable deaths in the future.” Adds Professor Stefan Lorkowski, of the University of Jena, co-author of the study and spokesperson for the nutriCARD competence cluster.
Significant difference in age and gender
The team also found significant differences in terms of age and gender: men tended to be affected at a younger age, while women were only affected from the age of 50 onwards. In 2016 in regard to premature deaths, around 601,000 people under the age of 70 died from diet-related cardiovascular disease, 420,000 of them men and 181,000 women.
The highest proportion of diet-related deaths among the under-70s was observed in Central Asia, where the figure was 42.5%. In the EU member states, the researchers identified 178,000 premature deaths (diet related) – 132,000 of them men and 46,000 of them women – which corresponds to almost 20% of cardiovascular deaths.