In this video, Dr. Michael Greger looks at the current research on the world’s deadliest risk factor and how it relates to the food we eat. We’ve provided a summary of his main points below.

The Global Burden of Disease study is the most comprehensive and systematic program to analyze the causes of death ever undertaken. It assesses mortality and disability in relation to disease and risk factors. The program’s research helps answer questions like: How many lives could be saved if people cut back on soda? The answer is 299,000. That sounds bad, but it’s not as deadly as bacon, bologna, ham or hot dogs. These processed meats cause 800,000 deaths every year, which is five times more people than all illegal drugs combined.


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Looking at the research:

  • Eating more whole grains could save 1.7 millions lives.
  • Eating more vegetables could save 1.8 million lives.
  • Eating more nuts and seeds could save 2.5 million lives.
  • Eating more fruit could save 4.9 million lives.

High Blood Pressure is the Deadliest Risk Factor in the World

The biggest risk factor in the world is high blood pressure (hypertension), killing 9 million people every year. In the United States, high blood pressure affects 78 million people and gets worse as we age.

High blood pressure is not a natural, inevitable consequence of getting older. Researchers found that whole groups of people who ate a diet centered around whole plant foods experienced lower blood pressures as they aged. What else did they find in these populations? They also had no heart disease.

Dr. Greger’s Sources:
T Nwankwo, S Sug, V Burt, Q Gu. Hypertension Among Adults in the United States: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011–2012. CDC.
SS Lim, T Vos, A D Flaxman, G Danaei, K Shibuya, H Adair-ROhani, M Amann, H R Anderson, K G Andrews and more. A comparative risk assessment of burden of disease and injury attributable to 67 risk factors and risk factor clusters in 21 regions, 1990-2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010. Lancet. 2012 Dec 15;380(9859):2224-60.
R Lozano, M Naghavi, S Lim, K Shibuya and more. Global and regional mortality from 235 causes of death for 20 age groups in 1990 and 2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010. The Lancet. Volume 380, No. 9859, p2095–2128, 15 December 2012.
C P Donnison. BLOOD PRESSURE IN THE AFRICAN NATIVE. The Lancet Volume 213, No. 5497, p6–7, 5 January 1929.
M Ezzati, E Riboli. Can noncommunicable diseases be prevented? Lessons from studies of populations and individuals. Science. 2012 Sep 21;337(6101):1482-7.
M R Law, J K Morris, N J Wald. Use of blood pressure lowering drugs in the prevention of cardiovascular disease: meta-analysis of 147 randomised trials in the context of expectations from prospective epidemiological studies. BMJ. 2009 May 19;338:b1665.
A R Walker, B F Walker. High high-density-lipoprotein cholesterol in African children and adults in a population free of coronary heart diseae. Br Med J. 1978 Nov 11;2(6148):1336-7.
A S Go, M A Bauman, S M Coleman King, G C Fonarow, W Lawrence, K A Williams, E Sanchez. An effective approach to high blood pressure control: a science advisory from the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014 Apr 1;63(12):1230-8.
Cholesterol Treatment Trialists (CTT) Collaborators, B Mihaylova, J Emberson, L Blackwell, A Keech, J Simes, E H Barnes M Voysey, A Gray, R Collins, C Baigent. The effects of lowering LDL cholesterol with statin therapy in people at low risk of vascular disease: meta-analysis of individual data from 27 randomised trials. Lancet. 2012 Aug 11;380(9841):581-90.

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