Nutrition and the burden of disease in New Zealand: 1997-2011

Public Health Nutr. 2005 Jun;8(4):395-401. doi: 10.1079/phn2004694.


Objective: To estimate the burden of disease due to selected nutrition-related risk factors (high total blood cholesterol, high systolic blood pressure, high body mass index (BMI) and inadequate vegetable and fruit intake) in 1997, as well as the burden that could potentially be avoided in 2011 if small, favourable changes in the current risk factor distribution were to occur.

Design: Data on risk factor levels, disease burden and risk associations were combined using comparative risk assessment methodology, a systematic approach to estimating both attributable and avoidable burden of disease. Disease outcomes assessed varied according to risk factor and included ischaemic heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes mellitus and selected cancers.

Setting: New Zealand.

Results: Approximately 4500 deaths (17% of all deaths) in 1997 were attributable to high cholesterol, 3500 (13%) to high blood pressure, 3000 (11%) to high BMI and 1500 (6%) to inadequate vegetable and fruit intake. Taking prevalence overlap into account, these risk factors were estimated jointly to contribute to approximately 11 000 (40%) deaths annually in New Zealand. Approximately 300 deaths due to each risk factor could potentially be avoided in 2011 if modest changes were made to each risk factor distribution.

Conclusions: High cholesterol, blood pressure and BMI, as well as inadequate vegetable and fruit intake, are major modifiable causes of death in New Zealand. Small changes in the population distribution of these risk factors could have a major impact on population health within a decade.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / mortality
  • Female
  • Heart Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Heart Diseases / mortality
  • Humans
  • Hypercholesterolemia / epidemiology
  • Hypercholesterolemia / mortality
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Hypertension / mortality
  • Male
  • Malnutrition / epidemiology*
  • Malnutrition / mortality
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • New Zealand / epidemiology
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena* / physiology
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Risk Factors
  • Stroke / epidemiology*
  • Stroke / mortality