A Bad Diet Is Worse Than Drugs, Alcohol and Tobacco Combined

When you next visit the supermarket, tread carefully, because your food choices could be cutting years off your life.

Whether it's too much junk food or a lack of nutritious food, malnutrition caused by bad eating habits is on the rise, a new report shows.

Globally, poor diets pose a greater risk to our health than alcohol, tobacco, drugs and unsafe sex combined, according to the report by the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition (Glopan).

The report draws upon data from 250 data sources and peer-reviewed articles, and lists recommendations for policymakers.

six of 11 risk factors driving global burden of disease related to diet
(Photo: Image via CNN)

In Africa, the increasingly urban population is eating more processed food, the report shows, leaving the continent with a dangerous mix of both underweight and overweight people causing diet-related diseases.

"Bad diets are a big problem affecting all countries. We estimate that one in three people has a poor diet," says lead author, Dr. Lawrence Haddad, executive director at the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN).

Bad for you, bad for your country

A poor diet may lead to type two diabetes, coronary heart disease, cancers, hypertension, anemia and a whole range of other health issues, Haddad explains.

In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the growth in the rate of obesity among men is larger than that of undernourishment, and in Nigeria and Ethiopia diabetes is on the increase, the report shows.

nigeria diabetes
(Photo: Image via CNN)

This isn't just bad news for your health, it's bad for the economy, as poor public health can be a huge cost for governments.

Across Africa and Asia, the estimated impact of undernutrition on gross domestic product (GDP) is 11% every year, according to the report — worse than the annual economic downturn caused by the global financial crisis of 2008 to 2010.

It's not just Africa — rates of obesity and diet-related diseases such as diabetes are increasing all over the world, but they are growing fastest in countries with low GDP, according to the report.

From underweight to obese

But that doesn't mean the end of starvation.

In Africa, due to large gaps in living standards, many countries are battling both undernourishment and obesity, according to the report.

Children are particularly vulnerable. An estimated 45.4% of deaths among children under five can be linked to poor diet. Fetal growth restriction, suboptimal breastfeeding, stunting, wasting and vitamin A and zinc deficiencies are all possible consequences.

one quarter childen stunted
(Photo: Image via CNN)

While undernutrition and hunger are slowly declining in Asia, in sub-Saharan Africa, the number of stunted children is still 58 million and rising by 500,000 every year, according to the report.

To read the rest of the article (including claims that a third of the world will be obese by 2030), click here.