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Poor diets lead to 20% of all deaths globally: Report

Poor diets are among the top causes of ill health globally, accounting for nearly one in five deaths, according to a study published last week that called on governments and businesses to do more to improve eating habits.

Eating unhealthy food or not having enough food - including children unable to breastfeed - contribute to widespread malnutrition, said researchers behind the latest Global Nutrition Report.

"Diets are one of the top risk factors of morbidity and mortality in the world - more than air pollution and smoking," said Professor Jessica Fanzo of Johns Hopkins University and a lead author.

"What we are eating is killing us. So something needs to get us back on track with our food system."

She said a lack of knowledge and affordability of nutritious food, as well as ineffective supply chains, are among the factors that contribute to poor diets.

Every country is battling some form of malnutrition - be it children who are anaemic or too short for their age, or women who are overweight but undernourished due to unhealthy diets - and adolescence obesity rates are rising, the report said.

Most countries are unlikely to meet nine global targets on nutrition that they have signed up to achieve by 2025 including adult obesity and diabetes, anaemia and child health.

Prof Fanzo noted that nutrition is crucial to building up immunity against disease, as well as mental cognition.

"You have to care about what people are eating if you want to build the intellect of your country," she said. - REUTERS