Study Reveals Poor Diet as Major Contributor to Cardiovascular Deaths in Europe

by Ella

A recent study conducted by Friedrich Schiller University Jena, the Institute for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Economics (INL), and the nutriCARD Competence Cluster has shed light on the significant impact of diet on cardiovascular-related deaths in Europe. Published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, the study underscores the critical role of nutrition in determining health outcomes.

The researchers analyzed data spanning from 1990 to 2019 to assess the relationship between nutrition and cardiovascular mortality. Their findings revealed that a staggering 1.55 million people in Europe succumb to cardiovascular-related deaths annually due to poor dietary habits. Lead author Theresa Pörschmann, a doctoral student at the University of Jena’s Chair of Nutritional Biochemistry and Physiology, emphasized that one in six deaths in Europe can be attributed to an unbalanced diet, with approximately one-third of cardiovascular deaths linked to poor nutrition.


The study further delineated the regional disparities in cardiovascular mortality attributable to dietary factors. Among the 27 EU member states, Germany alone accounted for approximately 112,000 premature deaths annually, representing a significant burden. Notably, Slovakia and Belarus reported the highest percentages of partially diet-related cardiovascular deaths, while Spain exhibited the lowest rates. In Germany, 31% of all cardiovascular deaths were attributed to an unbalanced diet.


The research also identified key dietary factors contributing to premature deaths, including insufficient consumption of whole-grain products and legumes, coupled with excessive intake of salt and red meat. Pörschmann emphasized the recurrent nature of these dietary patterns, underscoring the need for targeted interventions to address nutritional imbalances.


Moreover, the study examined the distribution of cardiovascular diseases across different age groups and genders. Ischemic heart disease, strokes, and hypertensive heart disease emerged as the leading causes of premature mortality. Alarmingly, nearly 30% of premature deaths occurred in individuals under the age of 70, highlighting the urgent need for preventive measures.


However, the study’s scope did not encompass additional risk factors such as alcohol consumption and excessive energy intake, which are known contributors to cardiovascular disease. According to Prof. Stefan Lorkowski from the Institute of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Jena, these factors, along with obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus, likely exacerbate the impact of poor dietary choices on cardiovascular health.

Despite a decline in the proportion of partially diet-related cardiovascular deaths until 2015, the study noted a slight resurgence since 2019. Prof. Lorkowski emphasized the importance of sustained efforts to promote healthier dietary practices and mitigate the growing burden of cardiovascular disease.

In conclusion, the study underscores the critical importance of nutrition in preventing cardiovascular-related deaths. With ample room for improvement, especially in countries like Germany, adopting a balanced diet remains a cornerstone of cardiovascular disease prevention. By addressing dietary imbalances and implementing targeted interventions, significant strides can be made towards improving heart health and reducing premature mortality rates across Europe.



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