Resources Backgrounder

Diet-related disease and healthy eating

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About this resource

This backgrounder provides an overview of some of the latest research on how healthy eating can help people to prevent and manage diet-related illnesses and chronic conditions, with a focus on the impacts on low-income communities.

Current context

Rates of diet-related diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, are at historic highs. 11 million Canadians were living with diabetes or pre-diabetes in 2016, and this number is projected to rise to almost 14 million by 2026. One in 12 adults in Canada live with diagnosed cardiovascular disease.
Diet-related diseases disproportionately affect people struggling with poverty and food insecurity. Low-income Canadians are four times more likely to suffer from type 2 diabetes and twice as likely to have cardiovascular disease compared to people with higher incomes.

Why it matters

Diet-related diseases are a leading cause of death in Canada and cost our health care system tens of billions of dollars each year. Diabetes and cardiovascular disease alone are expected to cost Canadians more than $44 billion annually by 2020.

These diseases are largely avoidable and can often be prevented through the adoption of a healthy diet and lifestyle. An estimated 90% of type 2 diabetes, 80% of heart disease, 70% of stroke, and 70% of colon cancer cases could be prevented through diet and lifestyle changes. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables are vital to reducing the risk of diet-related diseases, yet only 30% of Canadians are eating the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables. 

What we do about it

Community Food Centres and programs help to prevent and address diet-related diseases by increasing access to nutritious foods and empowering people to build healthy habits. Programs such as community meals and affordable produce markets increase access to healthy foods in welcoming and dignified settings. Hands-on cooking and garden programs, as well as our FoodFit program, help people build the skills, knowledge, and confidence to grow and prepare healthy food for themselves and their families.

77% of all Community Food Centre participants surveyed in 2017 had made healthy changes to their diets, and 56% had noticed improvements in their physical health as a result of participating in CFC programs.