Analysing data gathered by the Global Burden of Disease Study, collected between 1990 and 2017, scientists examined the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases across 51 European countries. Countries from the Middle East and Central Asia were also included in their research.
Considering food consumption as well as risk factors in certain countries, the team of researchers crunched the numbers to determine how many deaths were caused by a poor diet. Underconsumption of whole grain products, nuts, seeds and vegetables featured strongly, while too much salt also proved important.
In 2016, results found that Germans were worst off in the diet department - 160,000 deaths (46 per cent of all cardiovascular deaths) were associated with poor nutrition. Italy and Great Britain quickly followed with 41 per cent.
"In Sweden and Norway the underconsumption of nuts and seeds is most strongly associated with cardiovascular diseases, while in many Central and Eastern European and Central Asian countries the low intake of whole grain products poses the greatest risk," says lead researcher Dr Toni Meier from Martin Luther University (MLU).
"Or to put it another way: Increased consumption of low-fibre white flour products has led to an increase in cardiovascular disease in recent years. In Albania, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, the number of cases has more than doubled in the period under review."
"Our findings are crucially relevant for health policy and should be incorporated in the development of future prevention strategies," adds co-author of the study, Professor Stefan Lorkowski of the University of Jena.
"We must make better use of the potential of a balanced and healthy diet, otherwise cardiometabolic diseases will be the cause of even more preventable deaths in the future."
Other risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, exercise and smoking were all taken into account. However, alcohol was not.
"It should also be emphasised that the well-known risk factor of alcohol was not taken into account by our study. In countries with a high consumption of alcohol the degree of diet-related cardiovascular disease could be even higher," notes MLU professor and nutritionist Professor Gabriele Stangl.
This article originally appeared on Men's Health.