The human body needs a variety of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to keep its complex systems functioning smoothly. Poor nutrition can have serious health consequences, including contributing to the development of a range of diseases and health conditions. Whilst the term malnutrition may conjure an image of starving children in Third World countries, the fact is that many who have plenty of food to eat are malnourished these days, due to an abundance of highly processed, calorie-dense foods with little nutritional value available for consumption.
Amongst the risk factors of a bad diet is obesity, which is second only to tobacco use as an underlying cause of preventable death, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity increases an individual's risk of developing the top three killers: heart disease, stroke and cancer. It also contributes to the development of a number of other diseases and health conditions, including diabetes, osteoarthritis and chronic respiratory ailments. According to the World Health Organization, obesity rates have risen globally since the 1980s, and that increase is attributed to factors that include a global shift in diet toward an increased intake of energy-dense foods high in fat and sugar but low in vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients.
High sodium intake
Another risk factor of a bad diet is excessive consumption of sodium. Highly processed foods often contain high sodium levels. In fact, according to MayoClinic.com, the vast majority of dietary sodium comes from processed or ready-made meals, which are typically high in salt for preservation and flavour enhancement purposes. Excess salt, or sodium, intake can cause a variety of problems in the body. Most common is water retention, which increases blood volume, making the heart work harder to circulate the blood and increasing blood pressure. According to MayoClinic.com, excess sodium can lead to hypertension, or high blood pressure, which can cause heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and congestive heart failure. The World Health Organization ranks poor diet among the top three major primary risk factors for cardiovascular disease, along with physical inactivity and smoking. According to a WHO report, unhealthy dietary practices that contribute to cardiovascular diseases include the high consumption of saturated fats, salt and refined carbohydrates, along with a low consumption of fruit and vegetables.
Excessive fat intake
Amongst the more prevalent risk factors of poor dietary habits is high fat consumption, which can have wide-ranging health effects. Heath issues that can be caused by a high fat intake include high cholesterol, which can lead to hypertension and heart disease, and excessive weight gain, which increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and many other ailments. According to the American National Cancer Institute, high-fat diets increase the risk of cancers of the colon, uterus and prostate, whilst a lack of exercise and excess weight raise the risk of cancers of the colon, breast, oesophagus, uterus and kidney.
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- DoctorsLounge: CDC: Obesity approaching tobacco as top preventable cause of death
- World Health Organization: Obesity and overweight
- World Health Organization: Cardiovascular disease: prevention and control
- National Cancer Institute: Risk factors
- MayoClinic.com: Sodium: How to tame your salt habit now