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Poor Nutrition Leads to Chronic Diseases

Poor nutrition – including a lack of fruit, vegetables and whole grains – is associated with the development of multiple chronic diseases over time according to a study published in Clinical Nutrition in which the proportion of participants with more than one chronic disease increased from 14% to 34% over 5 years.

“Risk factors such as smoking, lack of physical activity and nutrition are already known to be linked to the development of chronic disease,” says study co-author Dr Zumin Shi of the University of Adelaide. “But this is the first time research has shown that nutrition itself is directly associated with the development of multiple chronic diseases over time.

“Those participants who ate more fresh fruit and vegetables, and more grains other than wheat and rice, had better health outcomes overall. Grains other than rice and wheat – such as oats, corn, sorghum, rye, barley, millet and quinoa – are less likely to be refined and are therefore likely to contain more dietary fibre. The benefits of whole grains are well-known and include a reduction in cardiovascular disease, diabetes and colorectal cancer.

“Rice intake was significantly lower in the healthy group. This could be because rice is mainly refined and deprived of the benefits associated with fibres, and the kinds of phytochemicals that you find in whole grains.”

Shi says that the study highlights the role of micronutrients in protecting against disease. “A higher daily intake of iron, magnesium, phosphorous, vitamin C, potassium and vitamin B1 was associated with healthier participants,” Shi says.

“It seems that a higher intake of fruit helps to prevent against the onset of the first chronic disease, while a higher intake of vegetables helps to protect against developing more than one chronic disease.”