An unhealthy diet – including too much meat – is the leading risk factor for high blood pressure, the No 1 global killer, according to data from the US Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).
Those who pile on the meat and forego fruit and veg, as well as eat too much salt and sugar, are putting themselves at highest risk of developing the condition – more so than if they smoke or drink too much.
Adding to its lethality, a poor diet can also contribute to strokes, ischemic heart disease and diabetes.
The IHME figures, an update to the authoritative 2010 report on the Global Burden of Disease, take into account feedback from 108 countries between 1990 and 2013.
A growing appetite for meat and a lack of knowledge about nutrition has led to an obesity epidemic in rich nations over that time, particularly the US.
The IHME has warned that unless the issue of how we eat is addressed, and current trends for obesity, diabetes, smoking and hypertension are curbed, then cardiovascular disease will cut short 7.8 million lives by 2025.
IHME director Dr. Christopher Murray sounded a positive note, however.
“There’s great potential to improve health by avoiding certain risks like smoking and poor diet, as well as tackling environmental risks like air pollution,” he said.
“The challenge for policymakers will be to use what we know to guide prevention efforts and health policies.”
Campaigns such as Meat Free Monday have been playing a vital role in shaping the conversation at a grassroots level, helping educate people about the importance of eating with their health, and the planet, in mind.