Dietary risks among leading causes of death

Food is a source of health, wellness and enjoyment but overindulgence is affecting Canadians’ health.

“There is a shift in understanding that the food we eat is one of the leading risks to our health, our longevity and our well-being,” said Calgary physician Norm Campbell.

Dietary risks are among the leading causes of death among Canadians in 2016, he said at a food policy conference held in Calgary June 18-19.

An unhealthy diet contributes to non-communicable diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Canadian data shows there is a complex mix of excess and deficiency driven by increasing consumption of processed foods.

People are consuming too much sodium, sugar and saturated fat and avoiding fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, low fat dairy, fish and poultry.

Modern society has created chronic disease, and conditions like high blood pressure are not part of normal human aging.

“These are things we can reverse,” he said.

A third of hypertension cases is related to too much salt and not enough potassium found in fruits and vegetables in the diet.

Another third of those suffering from high blood pressure are overweight.

“If you regularly eat anything more than minimally processed foods, it is very unlikely you are eating a healthy diet,” he said.

When questioned, many people claim they eat healthy but he suspects that is not the case.

Part of the problem is ignorance.

There are those who regularly eat at fast-food restaurants and think it is acceptable because tomato and lettuce are on the burger.

As well, many people are not able to accurately read nutrition labels.

Compounding the problem, research has found many labels underestimate sodium levels, and health claims can be misleading. The product may be high in fibre, but may also be high in sugar and salt.

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