How Diet Influences Your Disease Risk

 Sugar, Salt and Oil 

You are probably aware that a diet that contains too much sugar, salt, or fat can raise your risk for certain diseases. And you know too that healthy eating can lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other health conditions.

And you also know that good nutrition means a healthy eating plan. A healthy plan is a diet that emphasizes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products. This group includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts; and limits saturated and trans fats, sodium, and added sugars.

    At a Glance

  • Researchers found that eating too much or too little of certain foods and nutrients can raise the risk of dying of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
  • These results suggest ways to change eating habits that may help improve health.


Your Disease Risk Because of Poor Eating Habits

Did you know that major cardiometabolic diseases – heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes – pose real health and economic burdens on society? To understand how dietary components affect the risk of dying from these diseases; a research team led by Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian of Tufts University analyzed data from CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and national disease-specific mortality data. The study was supported in part by NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Results appeared on March 7, 2017, in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

…45% were associated with inadequate consumption of nutrients that are widely considered vital for healthy living, along with the over-consumption of foods that are not nutritious.

The researchers investigated the relationships of 10 different foods and nutrients with deaths related to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. They also compared data on participants’ age, sex, ethnicity, and education. They found that nearly half of all the deaths in the United States in 2012 that were due to cardiometabolic diseases were associated with sub-optimal eating habits.

Of 702,308 adult deaths due to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, 318,656 (45%) were associated with inadequate consumption of nutrients that are widely considered vital for healthy living, along with the over-consumption of foods that are not nutritious.

Deaths Due to Poor Nutrition (aka Disease Risk)

The highest percentage of cardiometabolic disease-related death (9.5%) was related to excess consumption of sodium. In addition, not eating enough ‘good’ nutrition from:

  • nuts and seeds (8.5%)
  • seafood omega-3 fats (7.8%)
  • vegetables (7.6%)
  • fruits (7.5%)
  • whole grains (5.9%)
  • or polyunsaturated fats (2.3%)

also increased risk of death. This information was compared with people who consumed enough of these foods/nutrients. Eating too much processed meat (8.2%), sugar-sweetened beverages (7.4%), and unprocessed red meat (0.4%) also raised the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes-related deaths.

Study of Preventable Cardiometabolic Deaths

The study showed that the proportion of deaths associated with sub-optimal diet varied across demographic groups. For instance, the proportion was higher among men than women; among blacks and Hispanics compared to whites; and among those with lower education levels.

“This study establishes the number of cardiometabolic deaths that can be linked to Americans’ eating habits, and the number is large,” explains Dr. David Goff, director of the NHLBI Division of Cardiovascular Sciences. “Second, it shows how recent reductions in those deaths relate to improvements in diet, and this relationship is strong. There is much to be done in preventing heart disease, but we know that better dietary habits can improve our health quickly. We can now act on that knowledge by making and building on small changes that add up over time.


“These findings are based on averages across the population and aren’t specific to any one person’s individual risk. Many other factors contribute to personal disease risk, including genetic factors and levels of physical activity. Individuals should consult with a health care professional about their particular dietary needs.”

– Tianna Hicklin, Ph.D.

Watch your Diet to Mitigate your Disease Risk

As you can see, an important way to keep control of your health is to watch your diet now. For example, adding salt to most processed foods is unnecessary as they contain more salt than you may realize. Sugar is also added to many food products to make them taste better, especially those that are low-fat.

You would probably be surprised at how much ‘hidden’ sugar you have consumed by the end of the day.  And we know that it is not always easy to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. But you can mitigate the risk of overeating ‘bad’ ingredients by reading content labels. By reading labels, you will be more aware of, and control, the ingredients you eat. As a result, cut the ‘bad’ and you’ll not only feel better but will soon begin to look better!

Learn More with these Additional Resources…

Be sure to check out these articles for more information. Learn more about why you should plan your nutritional goals and find helpful ways to stick to your plan: Good Nutrition and Why You Need It and My Grocery Shopping List.

What to learn more? Tap an image and visit our affiliate Amazon for great resources on the subject…

Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us
Explore the Dark Side of the All-American Meal, America’s Food Addiction, And Why We Get Fat
1000 Low Fat, Salt, Sugar & Cholesterol Recipes to Tempt Your Taste buds

Source: National Institutes of Health

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