Fruits and Vegetables
Researchers have found a direct link between poor diet and development of several chronic diseases.Mike65444/Flickr

Unhealthy food habits can increase the risk of several chronic diseases, researchers reveal.

Dr Zumin Shi and colleagues from the University of Adelaide in Australia reached the conclusion after closely studying diet patterns of more than 1000 Chinese people. During the five-year study, researchers also collected information about the participants' other lifestyle habits and health. Results showed a direct link between poor diet and development of several chronic diseases.

"Risk factors such as smoking, lack of physical activity and nutrition are already known to be linked to the development of chronic disease. But this is the first time research has shown that nutrition itself is directly associated with the development of multiple chronic diseases over time," Shi said in a news release.

Interestingly, inclusion of more fruits and vegetables into the daily diet was associated with better health outcomes.

Researchers also found added health benefits associated with limited intake of rice and increased consumption of whole grains. This may be because rice is refined and does not contain fibres like other grains, they said.

"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," Shi added, while pointing out that phytochemicals in whole grains may be playing a huge role in this occurrence.

At the end of the study, researchers found solid evidence to prove that higher intake of fruits prevented onset of first chronic disease while inclusion of more vegetables provided protection against risk of having more than one chronic disease.

The study has been reported in the journal Clinical Nutrition.

Eating lots of fruits and vegetables is known to have long lasting health effects. Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) attribute nearly 1.7 million deaths across the world to insufficient consumption of fruits and vegetables. According to them, consumption of 400 g of fruits and vegetable per day can help prevent development of various chronic diseases including cancer, diabetes and obesity.

Previous research on the subject shows that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help lower risk of cardiovascular diseases –strokes, heart diseases;  keep blood pressure under control; improve eye health; prevent certain types of cancers including bowel cancer.

In April this year, a team of researchers from the University of London reported another health benefit associated with fruit and vegetable consumption. They found that eating seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day lowered mortality risk by 42 percent.