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United Nations’ dietary policies to prevent cardiovascular disease

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 14 September 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d5747
  1. Dariush Mozaffarian, associate professor of medicine and epidemiology1,
  2. Simon Capewell, professor of clinical epidemiology2
  1. 1Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA
  2. 2Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  1. dmozaffa{at}

Modest diet changes could halve the global burden

On 19 September 2011, the United Nations General Assembly convenes a landmark high level meeting on non-communicable diseases. Cardiovascular disease will be high on the agenda. The potential health and financial benefits of cardiovascular disease prevention are astonishing. Each year, cardiovascular disease kills about 20 million people, including 10 million prematurely (before age 65 years) and inflicts high morbidity, disability, and socioeconomic costs.1 In high income countries, preventing or postponing 100 cases saves about $1m (£0.6m; €0.7).2

The relative socioeconomic savings of prevention are even higher in low and middle income countries, in which cardiovascular disease strikes at younger ages and there are fewer resources for care; this results in familial burdens, lost productivity, and cyclical escalation of poverty, which in turn contributes to cardiovascular disease.1

Diet is a powerful common determinant of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and several cancers.3 4 5 6 Natural experiments have shown rapid reductions in cardiovascular disease after dietary improvements in populations.7 Unfortunately, both the optimal dietary targets and evidence based interventions to achieve them have been unclear for decades. Numerous arrays of specific nutritional factors have been considered over time. This has caused confusion and often misguided dietary priorities. These challenges, compounded by resistance and misdirection by industry, have to date produced a …

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