Diseases linked to lifestyle choices, including diabetes and some cancers, kill 16 million people prematurely each year, the World Health Organization said Monday. The organisation called for action to stop the “slow-moving public health disaster”. Unhealthy habits like smoking, alcohol abuse and consuming too much fat, salt and sugar have sparked an epidemic of diseases which together constitute the leading cause of death globally, WHO said.

This “lifestyle disease” epidemic “causes a much greater public health threat than any other epidemic known to man,” said Shanthi Mendis, the lead author of WHO’s Chronic Diseases Prevention and Management report.

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