Death by chocolate: How the 'typical British diet' risks our lives

Laura Hampson
·3 min read
A diet high in chocolate can result in an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and early death, study says (Getty)
A diet high in chocolate can result in an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and early death, study says (Getty)

Well-loved staples of the British diet, like chocolate, sweets, butter and white bread, could increase your chances of dying in middle-age, researchers have found.

The study, published in BMC Medicine, saw scientists from Oxford University identify two diets associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and an early death for Brits.

The first diet is high in chocolate, confectionery, butter and white bread and low in fresh fruit and vegetables.

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The second is high in sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juice, chocolate, confectionery, table sugar and preserves and low in butter and higher-fat cheese.

The researchers also noted that those whose diet included more chocolate, sweets, butter and white bread tended to be “male, younger, experiencing economic deprivation, current smokers, less physically active and living with obesity or have hypertension”.

The study also found that those who had a high intake of the second diet (sugary drink, juice, preserves) had an increased risk of cardiovascular disease even though they tended to be more physically active and less likely to be suffering from obesity. Women, in particular, who were younger than 60 and had a diet relying heavily on these foods had a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

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One of the study’s authors, Carmen Piernas, said: "Cardiovascular disease is one of the main causes of death and disability in the UK and poor diet is a major contributor to this. The most common dietary guidelines are based on the nutrients found in foods rather than foods themselves and this can be confusing for the public.

“Our findings help identify specific foods and beverages that are commonly eaten in Britain and that may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality."

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To get these findings, the researchers analysed data from 116,806 adults in England, Scotland and Wales who were between the ages of 37 and 73 years old.

Piernas added: "Our research suggests that eating less chocolate, confectionery, butter, low-fibre bread, sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juice, table sugar and preserves could be associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease or death during middle-age.

“This is consistent with previous research which has suggested that eating foods that contain less sugar and fewer calories may be associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. The findings of this study could be used to create food-based dietary advice that could help people eat more healthily and reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease."

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While it’s definitely a good idea to include more fruit and vegetables in your diet, the study concluded that further research is needed to find the associations between the aforementioned diets and cardiovascular disease and mortality.