Food: The #2 Cause of Death in America

Food is the #2 cause of death in America. Let that sink in a minute. Food in the US kills more people each year than alcohol, cars, guns, drugs, and AIDS. COMBINED.

My husband shared this nifty little chart with me this week during his studies for his PA program. It shows the difference between the Leading Cause of Death vs. Actual Cause of Death. This sounds like the same thing, but it isn’t. Let me explain:

Actual Cause of Death is the “suspect” responsible for the death, while Leading Cause of Death is the “weapon.”

So for example, a death used in these statistics might include a man who died of complications from Diabetes (the weapon) due to Poor Diet/Physical Inactivity (the suspect).

But here is the really scary part. This information is 14 years old, and the situation has only gotten worse.

In an article on, research was compiled that projected obesity to have overtaken the #1 spot for Actual Cause of Death within a mere five years of this data. At the time the numbers for the chart above were collected, deaths due to smoking were 435,000 per year,while deaths from obesity were at a close 400,000. Here is a quote from that article:

“The most striking finding was the substantial increase in the number of estimated deaths attributable to poor diet and physical inactivity,” the researchers wrote. “The gap between deaths due to poor diet and physical inactivity and those due to smoking has narrowed substantially.” They warned, “It is clear that if the increasing trend of overweight is not reversed over the next few years, poor diet and physical inactivity will likely overtake tobacco as the leading preventable cause of mortality.” The researchers called for interventions to prevent and increase smoking cessation rates, improve diet, and increase physical activity to “become much higher priorities in the public health and health care systems.”

It continues to baffle me that we are talking about food and exercise here. People are dying by the 400,000’s every year for no good reason, and it is totally preventable. That’s the part that kills me.

“So Bread Geek,” you ask, “what does this have to do with bread?”

Well I am so glad you asked.

First off, baking is a workout. If you are making your own bread, you are more than likely doing so in an upright, standing position which in and of itself is a step away from “physical inactivity.” Now let’s assume you are also moving about the kitchen for ingredients, mixing, maybe even kneading. Perspiring a bit? Gold star for you! That’s called exercise!

Second, if you are baking your own bread, you are most likely not including high fructose corn starch, preservatives, or excessively refined sugars or chemicals to your dough. This is a huge step away from “Poor Diet.” Don’t even get me started on the boost you’re getting from the Natural Yeast alone.

Third, Healthy eating and exercise are addicting. If all you are doing is baking your own bread, I guarantee it won’t be “all you’re doing” for long. You will feel better, and you will like it. You will want to feel more of that feeling better, and so you will do more to get it. Once you start, you can’t stop.

We can eat our way OUT of the grave just as easily as we can eat our way IN. But it is up to us what we do with our time and our diets. We can’t fix everything at once, but if we work today, tomorrow and the rest of our lives, we will fix more than we break.


  1. Peggy says

    Love this post Melissa. It is interesting and awesome that Troy is learning this in PA school! We need doctors and PA’s who believe this and implement it into their treatment plan when appropriate. Maybe also involving dietitians who can follow through with the patients. Also- I love your new book! It is beautiful and I plan to make use of it- thanks for your motivation. I am also pationate about health!

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