As is always the case with these sorts of reports The Lancet’s one on diets and death is being treated as an awful, shocking, wake up call about the British diet. Look at how many people die because of eating the wrong foods! This will be taken by the peeps and wowsers and PHE and such places as being all the evidence needed that they should be issuing the ration cards that allow us to have our half slice of bacon a month.
When, in fact, this isn’t what the report is telling us at all.
Unhealthy diet causes one in seven deaths in Britain every year, a Lancet study suggests. The research found lack of fruit and fibre is taking the heaviest toll, fuelling conditions such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. The study by the University of Washington identified lack of wholegrain, nuts and fruits as the worst elements of the British diet. Too much salt was the fourth biggest dietary risk factor, followed by too little vegetables.
We’re all going to die of something, we’ve largely conquered the communicable diseases, so to die of eating tasty food that we actually like doesn’t sound too terrible really. But leaving aside that philosophic point, there is also this:
The research looked at 195 countries around the world. The UK had the 23rd lowest mortality due to diet, with 127 deaths per 100,000 people in 2017.
That is, we’re well up there at the good end of the spectrum. Which brings to mind Thomas Sowell’s question, compared to what?
Even a quick glance at that shows the correlation between GDP per capita and diets that are less likely to kill us. The rich world diet, the European and Japanese ones if you prefer – there’s a hell of a correlation between those two themselves – kills less than those healthy peasant ones.
Which isn’t at all what the wowsers are going to be telling us in the near future but it is actually true. The full report is here.