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  • Brian Bender, PhD

Chronic Disease Prevention: 7 Nutrition Related Diseases

Updated: Dec 9, 2022

Chronic disease prevention and, for some, reversal, can start today. Poor nutrition got us into this mess. Proper nutrition can get us out of it.

Roughly 45% of cardiometabolic deaths are associated with poor diet and nutrition [1], poor dietary behavior are the greatest disease risk factor we face in the U.S. [2], and the problem of poor diet and increasing obesity is now of global proportions [3].

Our bodies evolved in an environment where calories were scarce, and movement was required daily. We now live in an environment where calories are abundant, and movement has been engineered away. Particularly in America, poor dietary and exercise habits are a substantial driver of poor health and disease.

However, that doesn’t mean we can’t shift our focus back to healthy diets while adding reasonable movement back into our daily routines. And for chronic disease prevention, the sooner we do, the better. Poor diet and nutrition related diseases are intimately linked to several chronic diseases that include, in part, the list below. Poor diet and nutrition is part of the cause. But Inverting that sentiment, diet can be one of the best opportunities for reversing that risk, as well as outright chronic disease prevention.

Adhering to patterns of proper diet and nutrition have been shown to substantially lower your risk for developing these chronic diseases. Proper diet and nutrition has also been shown to slow down, halt, and in some cases, reverse the progression of these nutrition related diseases, too.

Nutrition Related Diseases

1. Hypertension

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a major risk factor for heart failure and stroke. Some of the risk factors for hypertension include, among other things, being overweight or obese and having a diet high in sodium (salt). Reviews have shown that a reduction in dietary sodium helps lower blood pressure both in individuals with hypertension and those with high but normal range blood pressure [4].

2. Diabetes

The inability to properly regulate insulin and its associated effects continues to climb in prevalence globally. Risk factors include, among other things, being overweight or obese. Getting your weight in check is one of the best strategies for reducing your risk for diabetes or preventing diabetes in those with prediabetes. The World Health Organization (WHO), relying on a Cochrane review [5], recommends shifting towards a healthier diet and adding exercise in order to reduce the risk of developing diabetes.

3. Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) occurs when kidney function gradually declines over time and, if left unchecked, can lead to fatal cardiovascular events or end-stage renal failure. Risk factors for CKD include obesity, diabetes, and hypertension, and affects roughly 14% of the population. Unfortunately, early stages of the disease often go undiagnosed. According to the NIH, roughly 90% of individuals with stage 1-3 CKD don’t know they have it. Therefore, it is important to check for this condition for those who may be at risk.

Dietary behaviors that reduce your risk for diabetes and hypertension, therefore, double for reducing your risk for CKD. Therefore, keeping your weight down and reducing sodium intake can help reverse early-stage CKD and slow down the progression of later stage CKD. But in addition, it has been shown that reducing your protein intake can help slow the progression of CKD by 32% [6]. And according to the National Kidney Foundation, it is also important to keep phosphorus and potassium levels in check as well.

4. Ischemic Heart Disease

Cardiovascular disease remains the number one killer, globally. Ischemic heart disease can lead to heart failure, and it is associated with dietary risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and overweight/obesity. Reviews have shown that eliminating trans fats and replacing saturated fats with polyunsatured fats reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by 17% [7].

5. Arthritis

According to the Arthritis Foundation, 1 in 3 obese Americans has arthritis. Obesity is a risk factor for arthritis because the excess weight adds strain to your joints. In fact, for every extra pound of weight, an extra 4 pounds of stress is applied to the joint. If, then, you are 100 pounds overweight, an extra 400 pounds of stress is being applied to your knee joints every step.

Therefore, losing weight with a healthy diet can significantly reduce your risk of arthritis. Furthermore, those with rheumatoid arthritis are at an increased risk of cardiovascular events, so similar dietary adjustments are important for these individuals, too.

6. Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the U.S. and continues to climb. Increasing evidence is linking diet and nutrition to the risk of mild cognitive impairment and AD. Along those same lines, adhering to healthy diets like the Mediterranean Diet, have been shown to reduce your risk of not only developing AD, but also your risk of progressing from a stage of mild cognitive impairment to AD.

7. Colorectal Cancer

Several cancers have been linked to malnutrition. One in particular is colorectal cancer. The World Health Organization (WHO) has determined that processed meats, after reviewing over 800 studies, causes cancer.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer after skin cancers, and the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S.

Though less definitive, the WHO also pointed out that red meat may increase your risk of developing colorectal, pancreatic, and prostate cancers.

Chronic Disease Prevention Starts Today

Chronic diseases, as the name suggests, derive from chronic behaviors. They don’t develop overnight. That should provide hope for those who have been living an unhealthy lifestyle for many years or who may be in the early or even late stages of these chronic diseases.

There is hope, because changing these lifestyle behaviors can start correcting many health conditions that have accumulated over the years. It is never too late to start eating a healthy diet and introducing more movement into your life. And if you live in one of the most walkable cities, it's time to get outside! Your heart, your kidneys, your knees, and your brain, will thank you!

This article is not intended to be medical advice. Please consult your physician for advice before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle.


  1. Micha R, Peñalvo JL, Cudhea F, Imamura F, Rehm CD, Mozaffarian D. (2017). Association Between Dietary Factors and Mortality From Heart Disease, Stroke, and Type 2 Diabetes in the United States. JAMA, 317(9), 912–924. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.0947

  2. US Burden of Disease Collaborators. (2013). The State of US Health, 1990-2010: Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors. JAMA, 310(6), 591–606. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.13805

  3. Anon. (2017). Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity in 195 Countries over 25 Years. New England Journal of Medicine, 377(1), 13–27. Retrieved (http://dx.doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa1614362).

  4. Graudal N, Hubeck-Graudal T, Jurgens G. (2017). Effects of low sodium diet versus high sodium diet on blood pressure, renin, aldosterone, catecholamines, cholesterol, and triglyceride. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD004022. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004022.pub4.

  5. Hemmingsen B, Gimenez-Perez G, Mauricio D, Roqué i Figuls M, Metzendorf MI, Richter B. (2017). Diet, physical activity or both for prevention or delay of type 2 diabetes mellitus and its associated complications in people at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Issue 12. Art. No.: CD003054. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003054.pub4.

  6. Fouque D, Laville M. (2009). Low protein diets for chronic kidney disease in non diabetic adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD001892. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001892.pub3.

  7. Hooper L, Martin N, Abdelhamid A, Davey Smith G. (2015). Reduction in saturated fat intake for cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Issue 6. Art. No.: CD011737. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD011737.

  8. Singh, B., Parsaik, A. K., Mielke, M. M., Erwin, P. J., Knopman, D. S., Petersen, R. C., & Roberts, R. O. (2014). Association of Mediterranean diet with Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease : JAD, 39(2), 271–282. http://doi.org/10.3233/JAD-130830.


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