TUESDAY, March 7, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Nearly half of all deaths from heart disease, stroke and diabetes in the United States are associated with diets that skimp on certain foods and nutrients, such as vegetables, and exceed optimal levels of others, like salt, a new study finds.
Using available studies and clinical trials, researchers identified 10 dietary factors with the strongest evidence of a protective or harmful association with death due to “cardiometabolic” disease.
“It wasn’t just too much ‘bad’ in the American diet; it’s also not enough ‘good,'” said lead author Renata Micha.
“Americans are not eating enough fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds, whole grains, vegetable oils or fish,” she said.
Micha is an assistant research professor at the Tufts University School of Nutrition Science and Policy in Boston.
The researchers used data from multiple national sources to examine deaths from cardiometabolic diseases — heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes — in 2012, and the role that diet may have played.
“In the U.S. in 2012, we observed about 700,000 deaths due to those diseases,” Micha said. “Nearly half of these were associated with suboptimal intakes of the 10 dietary factors combined.”
Too much salt in people’s diets was the leading factor, accounting for nearly 10 percent of cardiometabolic deaths, according to the analysis.
The study identifies 2,000 milligrams a day, or less than 1 teaspoon of salt, as the optimal amount. While experts don’t agree on how low to go, there is broad consensus that people consume too much salt, Micha noted.
Other key factors in cardiometabolic death included low intake of nuts and seeds, seafood omega-3 fats, vegetables, fruits and whole grains, and high intake of processed meats (such as cold cuts) and sugar-sweetened beverages.
Each of these factors accounted for between 6 percent and 9 percent of deaths from heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
“Optimal” intake of foods and nutrients was based on levels associated with lower disease risk in studies and clinical trials. Micha cautioned that these levels are not conclusive. Optimal intake “could be modestly lower or higher,” she explained.