An absence of good food can be just as bad (and deadly) as too much bad food.
In 2012, more than 700,000 deaths in the US were caused by heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Given the impact of food and diet on all of these ailments, the potentially lethal effects of certain foods warrants close investigation. That was the recent goal of a study appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers wanted to calculate the association between ten specific "dietary factors" (food and nutrients) and mortality due to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes (cardiometabolic mortality) among US adults.
The dietary factors they honed in on were fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, unprocessed red meats, processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), polyunsaturated fats, seafood omega-3 fats, and sodium—the second half of that enumeration being staples of the American diet.
Of those 700,000 deaths in 2012, 318,656—or nearly half—of them were found to be directly related to excess sodium intake, insufficient intake of nuts and seeds, high intake of processed meats, and low intake of seafood omega-3 fats. What's novel about this research is that by looking diet through the lens of "suboptimal" consumption, scientists were able to take a more nuanced perspective, meaning that it's not just the presence of bad foods that can kill you, but the absence of good food.
That also means salty, processed meats like bacon and hot dogs are a major no-no, according to authors. So on top of ruining your sperm, potentially causing stomach cancer, and being as bad for you as cigarettes, bacon can also be a harbinger of death by heart disease.
"These results should help identify priorities, guide public health planning, and inform strategies to alter dietary habits and improve health," authors wrote, pointing to the measurable impact of approaches like soda taxes and sodium reduction. If soda and cigarettes are any indicator, we may be headed for a bacon tax.