Still, they conclude that people in nearly every corner for the world could benefit from rebalancing their diets and consuming more healthy foods and less unhealthy foods.
The study published in the journal The Lancet followed trends in the utilization of 15 dietary foods from 1990 to 2017 of 195 nations. "The next biggest diet-related killers were cancer, with 913,000 deaths, and Type 2 diabetes, which claimed 339,000 lives..." Chris Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, which led the work, said it "affirms what many have thought for several years".
A breakdown of the analysis showed that low intake of whole grains and fruits, and high consumption of sodium - found in salt - accounted for more than half of diet-related deaths.
Low intake of whole grains - below 125 grams per day - was the leading dietary risk factor for death and disease in India, the US, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Russia, Egypt, Germany, Iran, and Turkey.
"It is especially concerning to see that so many deaths in the United Kingdom could be avoided by tackling obesity, poor diet and physical inactivity".
Uzbekistan has been named as the country which has the highest number of diet-related deaths in the world. Diet can also be a risk factor for many chronic diseases, such diabetes.
U.S. co-author Professor Walter Willett, from Harvard University, said the findings supported recent research on heart and artery disease that advocated replacing meat with plant protein.
On average, the global population only ate 12 percent of the recommended amount of nuts and seeds - around 3g average intake per day, compared with 21g recommended per day.
Meanwhile, the world consumed only 16% of the recommended amount of milk and 23% of the recommended amount of whole grains, compared to 90% more than the recommended amount of processed meat, and 86% more sodium.
Its experts recommend limiting alcohol consumption, red and processed meat and making fruit and vegetables a major part of the daily diet.
"'The findings of the paper will inform policy decisions that shape what food is available in Western countries, how it is marketed and potentially what it costs in the coming years, ' Reynolds said..."
And rather than trying to persuade people to cut down on sugar, salt and fat, which has been "the main focus of of diet policy debate in the past two decades", it would be better to promote healthy options, the authors say.
"This study gives us good evidence of what to target to improve diets, and therefore health, at the global and national level", said Oyinlola Oyebode, associate professor at Warwick Medical School in Coventry, England, who was not involved in the research.