Poor diet is the leading cause of death and illness ahead of smoking, says a new study.
According to experts at Public Health England, poor diet accounts for 10.8 percent of total diseases and is a bigger killer than smoking. Tobacco is responsible for 10.7 percent of total illness.
Professor John Newton, of Public Health England, said, "This is a wake-up call for those providing health services. The findings show the huge opportunity for preventive public health."
Although there have been big falls in premature mortality, the major causes of premature deaths in England are heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that are attributable to preventable risk factors.
Life expectancy in England has increased by 5.4 years from 75.9 to 81.3 between 1990 and 2013. This was well above the average of the other 18 countries studied.
Dietary risks are due to high consumption of sugar, salt and red meat and not adequate amount of fruits and vegetables.
The study showed that increased body weight, which is directly related to a poor diet is responsible for 9.5 percent of ill health. High blood pressure accounts for 7.8 percent, alcohol and drug 5.8 percent and lack of physical activity 3 percent. These preventable factors contribute to 40 percent of ill health.
The study found that the East of England was the healthiest region in the western world with low numbers dying early from hear disease, cancer and lung conditions. The North West was the worst and is on a par with Portugal, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said, "These optimistic facts show that we have recently done a better job of increasing life expectancy than most other European countries. But the other half of the story is the clear benefits of now tackling the root cause of much of our preventable illness."