BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Good Diet versus Bad Diet: The Impacts of Diet Choice



Whether conscious of it or not, everyone is faced with the important health choice of good or bad diet daily unless you decide not to eat for one reason or the other. Diet is a significant modifiable risk factor in the development of NCDs such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure which are the leading causes of death in developed nations. According to a study published in the prestigious lancet journal in 2017,11 million deaths (95% uncertainty interval [UI] 10–12) and 255 million (234–274) DALYs were attributable to dietary risk factors:

  • High intake of sodium (3 million [1–5] deaths and 70 million [34–118] DALYs)
  • Low intake of whole grains (3 million [2–4] deaths and 82 million [59–109] DALYs)
  • Low intake of fruits (2 million [1–4] deaths and 65 million [41–92] DALYs)

These figures represented the negative effects of the leading dietary risk factors for deaths and DALYs globally and in many countries. As scary and authoritative as this is, it doesn’t make much public influence due to the widespread use of media by the nutraceutical industry to throw out health claims here and there. This along with constant churning out of facts by pseudoscientists and others with personal interests have somewhat made the public numb to health facts. It is difficult to make a positive health choice when one is overloaded with false information.

In addition to the prevention of NCDs, a healthy diet also protects against protein energy malnutrition. Generally, a healthy diet involves the intake of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, less salt, sugar, and unsaturated fat (found in fish, olive oils). The healthy diet is exemplified in the Mediterranean diet, indigenous to the people of the Mediterranean region (modern day France and Italy) which attracted worldwide attention in the 1960s when high adult life expectancy and low rates of chronic diseases (coronary heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes) were reported across the region. It is the most studied of all diets and have been clearly shown to control diabetes and hypertension. It is not a ‘diet’ in the strict sense as the Mediterranean countries eat very differently but an eating pattern which involves high fruits, vegetables, legumes, monounsaturated rather than saturated fat or trans-fat, moderate ethanol, milk, dairy products and low meat and meat products.

The case with an unhealthy, poor or bad diet is the complete opposite of a healthy diet with increased risk of nutritional deficiencies, NCDs, obesity and cardiac arrest. The prototype bad diet is the western diet which is high in total energy, saturated fats, salt, sugar and low fibre. The most convincing evidence of the association of western diet to NCDs comes from the observation of higher incidence of colorectal cancer in Asian immigrants in the US who adopt western diets. Also, there is increasing frequency of this cancer in Africans- who are also adopting the western style of diet. Worse still, the Africans who less able to handle salt are more predisposed to hypertension and it’s complications.

The list of other types of diet is endless; popular ones include the DASH diet, MIND diet, Nordic diet, Atkins diet, Asian diet, Weight watchers diet, Vegetarian or Vegan diet etc. The diet you adopt must be supplemented where applicable if it is deficient in an important nutrient for example if you adopt the vegan diet, you should receive iron and vitamin B12 supplements as they are lacking in these diet. The point is, irrespective of the diet choice, a good, healthy balanced diet should be the goal.

The choice of diet is not necessarily based on health benefits, other factors like cost, availability, culture, beliefs, geographical and environmental factors affect what individuals choose and eat. The government can promote healthy diet by increasing incentives for healthy products and taxation of unhealthy food products.

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