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Introduction It is unclear how much of the geographical variation in coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke and cancer mortality rates within the UK is associated with diet. The aim of this study is to estimate how many deaths from CHD, stroke and cancer would be delayed or averted if Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland adopted a diet equivalent in nutritional quality to the English diet. Methods Mortality data for CHD, stroke and 10 diet-related cancers for 2007-2009 were used to calculate the mortality gap (the difference between actual mortality and English mortality rates) for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Estimates of mean national consumption of 10 dietary factors were used as baseline and counterfactual inputs in a macrosimulation model (DIETRON). An uncertainty analysis was conducted using a Monte Carlo simulation with 5000 iterations. Results The mortality gap in the modelled scenario (achieving the English diet) was reduced by 81% (95% credible intervals: 62% to 108%) for Wales, 40% (33% to 51%) for Scotland and 81% (67% to 99%) for Northern Ireland, equating to approximately 3700 deaths delayed or averted annually. For CHD only, the mortality gap was reduced by 88% (69% to 118%) for Wales, 58% (47% to 72%) for Scotland, and 88% (70% to 111%) for Northern Ireland. Conclusion Improving the average diet in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to a level already achieved in England could have a substantial impact on reducing geographical variations in chronic disease mortality rates in the UK. Much of the mortality gap between Scotland and England is explained by non-dietary risk factors.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Open

Publication Date